Article written

  • on 30.09.2015
  • at 02:40 PM
  • by Naomi Cohen

An interview with the director of ‘Paths To Freedom’, a film on Namibian liberation 0

Paths to Freedom is the latest from award winning Namibian filmmaker Richard Pakleppa. It takes a look at the launch of the liberation struggle by several Namibian freedom fighters, focusing primarily on the early stages of resistance to South African occupational rule in the 1960s. The film collects testimonies of the key players involved at the time, including Former presidents Sam Nujoma and Hifikepunye Pohamba; as well as former Robben Island prisoners Andimba Toivo ya Toivo and Helao Shityuwethe.

The 1960’s saw the founding of SWAPO (South West African People’s Organization) and the launch of the armed struggle to topple apartheid in Namibia. This culminated in the country’s first free and fair elections in 1989 and independence from South African rule in 1990.

Richard Pakleppa grew up in Namibia and as a student he was deeply affected by the times of revolt and activism in the 70s and 80s. He was a member of NANSO (Namibian National Students Organization) which was founded in 1984 as a non-racial, democratic and independent student organization. He is a filmmaker and activist who’s first film Saamstaan (1990) chronicled a woman’s coop of domestic workers who told their stories of what it’s like working under “Madam.” It was broadcast on NBC (Namibia’s state run broadcaster). In response the Afrikaans newspaper Republikein said that the film “breek Versioning (breaks reconciliation)”.

Paths to Freedom was showcased recently at the Durban International Film Festival in July and won the Best Artistic Achievement award at the Luxor African Film Festival in Egypt in March. In an effort to understand the genesis of this important film project I caught up with Richard and asked him a few questions.

What made you become a filmmaker?

I’ve been attracted to photographs and images and films for a long time. And I love music. So I like how films bring you close to  human lives, people. And how one is working with different registers of emotion and the “material” of life through sound and picture and rhythm. Through activism where we worked with theatre and music and video the film making was also seen as a powerful tool for creating awareness, challenging, exposing , shifting things. I like the spaces that are free of  the tyranny of narrative and plot. I like undiluted emotion, moments, a long single take of the burning bush in the face of a child, moods, places in which you as the viewer discover yourself, discover something of yourself.

Why did you want to tell this story? Why is this story of Namibia’s liberation struggle still important, still valid?

I think of the film as a praise song.  In praise songs we remember and praise those who came before us and created conditions for us to be who and how we are today. That is true even if it is also true that the process of liberation is not completed.

What was the process like? How long did it take to make?

I made the film over 4 years. Started with no money, shot some interviews and scenes, got the main money after 2 years then the rest when I had an advanced cut. The taking out and leaving in part is a huge challenge. Especially since your research, the interviews and the archive materials you collect flood your mind with an overwhelming amount of details, stories to choose from. Documentary filmmaking cannot be capricious or arbitrary or willful or lazy. Because people trust you with their story you have to take great care. It was a struggle. But I had great interviews to work with – a huge amount of testimony. And guidance from the ancestors.

Continue reading on Africa is a Country

by Perivi John Katjavivi

Photo Credit: Richard Pakleppa

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