Katutura falls short hype

06 February 2015

At the risk of having people lynch me on social media and have them dub me a “hater” – as often happens when one gives an honest critique in Namibia – I would like to throw in my two cents about Katutura.

Let everyone note that I am genuinely proud of the effort put in by the entire team. Their efforts are commendable, as evident by the number of people who flocked to the cinema last Thursday to show their support.

The film centres around an ex-convict who is trying to live his life on the straight and narrow but various obstacles will make that an impossible task.

The picture and sound quality was perfect (take that Nollywood!). If they used motion graphics or not for some of their dangerous scenes like the car explosion or the shack fire, one will never know because it was very realistic.

However, the overall film failed to live up to the hype that people generated around it in the weeks leading up to the premiere.

The star-studded cast that comprised actors, musicians and other media personalities could have been enough on its own to rouse excitement in the audience.

Unfortunately, that was not a guarantee that their acting abilities would be top notch, which they were not.

Former Miss Namibia Odile Müller was the only actor in the film who awakened a stirring in me. When her character Esme cried, I wanted to cry with her.

I found myself about to jump into the screen to give her a hug. Someone give that girl an Oscar award or an Emmy or both.

The second character that was believable was that of wheelchair bound schoolboy Kondja (Gift Uzera). It became clear from his technique that the actor had taken the time to teach himself the subtle mannerisms of someone in a wheelchair.

Dangi, the lead character portrayed by Chops Tshoopara, came in at third place. The character was that of a strong silent type who hardly spoke. Charged with only having to look menacing, it was a given that the actor would pull this off effortlessly.

The rest of the cast looked somewhat mechanical and did not communicate any real emotions through their acting.

Some gave the impression they were trying too hard not to forget their lines and in the meantime forgot they had to make their characters come to life.

Shivago (Obed Emvula), Dangi’s former best friend and arch-nemesis, looked menacing until the point where he opened his mouth to speak.

It felt like that scene from Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, when the Pirate Lord of the Indian Ocean Sumbhajee Angria, stands up to speak for the first time and his voice does not match his look, explaining why he had two spokesmen with him at all times.

The sex scenes made me cringe. I could not tell whether Tjuna Kauapirura was having a seizure during her sex scene or my innocent eyes were meant to believe that is what sex looks like from the perspective of the outsider.

They would have been better off doing it the old-school way by going under the covers from head to toe and making sexual motions while moaning uncontrollably like porn stars.

Shivago’s sex scene looked like he had passed out and his counterpart took off her shirt to give him CPR.

I could not help but chuckle as Esme’s boss attempted to rape her. A blind man would look more confident tearing off a woman’s clothes than he did.

I imagined that is what it looks like when a teenage boy tries to “make the beast with two backs” for the first time.

The biggest issue for me was that it felt as if the film had too many plots or perhaps it appeared that way because it lacked uniformity or flow between the scenes.

The one-minute Kondja is thrusting sand in Shivago’s face who frantically runs to the car, and I assumed he went to retrieve a weapon, but poof we are on to the next scene.

The back-stories of the characters were also a tad flimsy, which didn’t help in seamlessly weaving the scenes together.

There was not enough substance for me to make sense of what was happening or why it was happening without it leaving me with more questions.

Moreover, what happened to our Namlish and the various other Kasi slangs you are bound to hear on any given day? Yes, they were in Katutura but it didn’t feel like Katutura.

They could have incorporated a few phrases and languages to give it that authentic Katutura feel. We have seen it done in many films from other countries like Tsotsi, which went on to win the 2006 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

However, I liked the fact that the soundtracks for the film comprised mainly songs by local artists. That is true unity, one art form promoting another.

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The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

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