Film Review – Authenticized
Director: Marijn Kraak, Reimer van Tuinen and Karel Poortman
Screenplay: Marijn Kraak, Reimer van Tuinen and Karel Poortman
Cast: Tjinezuma Kavari, Tony Figueira, Ted Scott and Vickson Hangula
The documentary Authenticized premiered at the Franco Namibian Cultural Centre this week Wednesday. It is a cinematic attempt to capture the essence of the dynamics that surround people in transition from their culturally-grounded traditional lives to the fringes of modern society. Authenticized is about how the ovaHimba community is slowly forfeiting its cultural identity and how they are desperately trying to cling to it.
This documentary interviews a range of divergent people from tour guides, to photographers, lawyers, tourists and the local community. The documentary shows how the ovaHimba community lives off the money they get from being photographed and filmed and how they are exploited by some filmmakers and photographers. It also emphasises the fact that the ovaHimbas are just putting up a traditional act for the tourists and when these are gone, they live a more modern and western lifestyle.
The ovaHimba people claim in the documentary that sometimes filmmakers and photographers promise to pay them but they do not and therefore there should be a law against this or all filmmakers and photographers should get papers form the Film Commission or government. They also argue that there should be a fixed prize. Many Europeans are very interested in the ovaHimba culture and find them exotic and beautiful, and therefore they want to capture them in their natural environment before they get westernised. However, exactly this sentiment of being captured in a time capsule, does not sit too well with many of the younger ovaHimba themselves.
The documentary is well-directed and produced as it tackles every angle. Widely different views come from the locals who are complaining that most of the ovaHimba are faking it just to get money out of the tourists, from the tourists who just marvel at this unique tribe and from the photographers and filmmakers who want to make money out of them commercially.
There are parts of this documentary that are disturbing to me.
For instance, there was a photographer that I though had not such good intentions while taking pictures of the young girls, but maybe I am just paranoid. The fact that the local people are building a cultural village, where an ovaHimba family comes to live for a week and the tourists can come ogle them and see how they live, implicitly indicates a certain type of endorsement coming from the ovaHimba themselves. This does not sit well with me, it reminds me of the stories I have heard and read of Saartjie Baartman, the Khoikhoi woman who was exhibited as a freak show attraction in the 19th century in Europe. This is not cool at all.
The best advice in the documentary was from one of the tour guides who said to preserve the ovaHimba culture and to stop them from being exploited is to designate specific villages that are being exposed to tourists, filmmakers and photographers and to leave the other villages in peace to live the traditional way, or whatever way they prefer. In my opinion, the ovaHimba people should earn whatever they can from the tourist industry, and just try to live their normal lives.
But, essentially, they have to decide what they regard as normal life. This film puts this issue squarely under the spot light.