Artwolfe conducted this interview with Joel Haikali, the Creative Director of Joe Vision Production to find out a bit more about funding and the Namibian film industry.
Artwolfe: How is Joe Vision Productions unique among film production companies of Namibia?
Joel: Joe Vision Production is not the only Namibian film production company. However, we might be one of the few that invest in the development of art. For example, years ago Joe Vision Productions initiated the collection of Namibian films called the Namibian Movie Collection (NMC). Moreover we are working hard to establish a bridge between our film industry and training institutions by mentoring and providing on-set training for art students and aspired filmmakers.
Artwolfe: What are some challenges of doing the work you do in Namibia that would be different if you were elsewhere?
Joel: Funding is often the main challenge, but that is a universal challenge. However there are other challenges in developing the arts that are unique to Namibia. These include a lack of cinema culture and a lack of understanding of the value of art in general. Namibia also has a small population and therefore a small market for art products and art productions. This is especially challenging when it comes to cinema, because you need many viewers to make the running of a cinema worthwhile.
The lack of arts appreciation is significant and is evident even at government level. Although the Ministry of National Service, Youth Sport and Culture (MNSYSC) has a Directorate of Arts, which has a specific mandate to develop art in Namibia, the government has not been able to make much of a difference in film appreciation (in other words, develop a cinema culture). A lot of this might have to do with lack of empathy, lack of skill in the field or simply lack of capacity. There is even an organization called National Arts Council of Namibia, through which arts projects were supposed to be funded. However I was told recently that this organization is currently dormant pending an investigation. As a result all the government money that was budgeted for art in 2014 was sent back to treasury.* This is depressing news, when so many artists and arts projects must rely on the council for their means to work.
Artwolfe: What are some of the rewards and benefits of working as an artist in Namibia that you wouldn’t get elsewhere?
Joel: In Namibia we are still generally enjoying the freedom of artistic/creative expression. We do not yet, in my knowledge, have any censorship organizations the like of which can be found all over Africa and beyond. Moreover, the film industry is relatively young, so we are in many ways the pioneers and that comes with both flexibility and responsibility.
Compared to other countries I have been to, Namibia has ideal governmental structures aiming at development. Unfortunately, institutions are only as good as the people who lead them and it is clear that aims are not always met. This is one of many challenges that needs to be overcome if the arts are to flourish in Namibia.
*Last week, media reported that the Ministry of Youth, under which art and culture falls, returned 100 Million Namibian dollars to treasury from 2010 to 2013 alone. Click here to see the article.
You can find out more about Joe Vision Production at their website: www.joe-vision.com