Oshosheni: This is yours

As one of the few black female film directors in Namibia, Oshosheni Hiveluah, chooses to be acknowledged only as a good director, rather than “one of the few Namibian female directors.” Generally, people have a compulsion to label and put things into boxes. She is a woman and she is a black woman. It is as if women are not supposed to be as good as men when doing the same type of job.
This is a stereotype, which this efficient film director has asked me to get straight out of the way. She believes there should be no “extraordinary” thing about a female filmmaker, just like no one is surprised that Steven Spielberg, being a man, makes really good movies.

It has been difficult breaking into the industry, but her optimism has helped push her through. It is important for everyone to tell their own stories or being represented by the right people to do so.
Oshosheni adds that for many women an occupation as a film director often does not occur to them because it is not offered as frequently as for example professions like nursing are. For that reason she hopes that through her role as an independent filmmaker she may be able to open doors for women to perhaps see themselves in opportunities outside their traditional roles.

This creative woman is the film director of the short film “100 Bucks” which was recently screened in Windhoek during the Namibian Film Week. The opening was a prestigious Red Carpet event that afforded an invitation for one’s presence. I went to see the film and was immediately mesmerized by the real-life portrayal of comedy and drama in the 24 minute film. Of course, it was not supposed to be entirely a funny film, but viewing everyday life as we know it can give a comic appearance when mirrored back through a lens.

I asked the laid-back albeit alert film maker how she would describe her film and what the bigger idea behind it was. Allegedly, she had observed that a lot of historic movies and films featuring rural life have been made, but that there was a lack of reflection on urban (in this case: Windhoek) life. The film tries to represent this and asks questions about where the Namibian youth fits into this modern society.

Upon the idea of a friend, she decided to show this by linking the depiction to the one thing everybody in an urban society can relate to; money. Hence, the title of the film: 100 Bucks. As the N$100 makes its journey through the hands of different people ranging from the very rich to the ones struggling to make a living, each of their stories is told through this journey. As she puts it “The 100 bucks are a means to get access to the lives of these different characters.” The film also tries to make people think about their love for money versus their love for the people in their lives. At the same time it is attempting to make us internally work out for ourselves how we judge people based on the money they have or don’t have or the means they employ to get it.

While this deserving and hard-working artist is waiting for possible awards and hopefully recognitions to stream in, word on the street is that 100 Bucks was well- received. According to her that may be because people could relate to the situations the characters found themselves in. Despite the criticism that there was a lot of swearing in the film, Oshosheni felt that this was a necessary aspect to the film that she has purposely pondered about. The reality is that some people do speak that way and taking that out would have made the story less realistic.

Talking about the foul language in the film brought me to the following question. Did she as a practicing Christian, see a contradiction of the world view she portrays in her film as opposed to sending out a perhaps more faith-based message using this platform? With no uncertainty, she told me that there might never be a central Christian theme in her films. She is trying to portray not only what her faith teaches her but also what is really going on out there. The film was meant to be a mirror image of the times of the society, so sugarcoating this to fit in with her interpretation of how life should be would be inaccurate. According to her there are definitely some Christian elements to her film but those elements are not dictated to the viewers. It is simple things as seeing how choice affects your actions and in effect your consequence that may have a viewer thinking about what they think is the right or wrong way for them.

What needs to happen in the Namibian film industry according to this independent filmmaker is that more opportunities need to be awarded to people who have the requirements for the job. People should not just be making movies for the love of it, but especially in order to build this industry. She states that people would like to pay their bills through their passions, but are hindered from doing so, because the industry does not adequately provide for that. She mentions good artists that are in-between jobs and do not have enough to live on between projects as well as parents juggling households and at the same trying to hold down their day jobs while waiting for the next gig.

The last thing I had to touch on (again) was the importance Oshosheni plays in her role as a filmmaker who happens to be not only a woman, but also black. I suggested that perhaps people feel that she is such a special case due to Namibia’s historical context. She not only represents one group but incorporates two groups of the same struggle for equality. Even though she understands where that pride comes from, this efficient and direct woman also feels that we should be careful that the labeling does not become detrimental to the filmmaker. It should not become a case where a film simply gets accepted as great because the filmmaker is from a previously disadvantaged background. This will take away from the work of the artist and may only lend crutches to hold an artist’s work up with.

For those that would like a taste of 100 Bucks, the trailer is out on YouTube and on the film’s Facebook
Page: 100-Bucks-the-movie. Also check out the blog: http://100bucks.tumblr.com/ . The film features a hip soundtrack with a theme song produced one of Namibia’s top music producer, Becoming Phill. A DVD of the film will soon be available in Namibia. Hopefully shortly thereafter, the work of this great film director will also be made available in other countries. Oshosheni has a great name, which literally means; “This is yours!” Take it!

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