‘Salute’: 8 Questions with director Philippe Talavera
Philippe Talavera’s movie ‘Salute’ has been nominated in the Best Movie: Southern Africa category of the 2018 Africa Magic Viewers Choice Award (AMVCA). This is the first nomination the film has received.
Talavera says ‘Salute’ is for sure very special in the Ombetja Yehinga Organisation (OYO) sphere, as most of the youth organisations’ previous films deal with teenage issues. According to him, they worked for two years in correctional facilities, interacting, listening and learning from inmates. Explaining the success and approval rate of the film, Talavera adds that the film is one of the organisation’s most researched film, to date.
As part of the built-up to the AMVCA, ‘Salute’ will be screened at the Franco-Namibian Cultural Centre (FNCC) on 15 August at 6pm – entrance is N$40. Tickets can be bought at FNCC in advance or on the day, however, there are limited seats.
I sat down with Talavera to get into the detail of his film, among other things:
Can you name some of OYO’s most successful films?
‘Pap and milk’ has been very successful as many could relate to the main character. ‘Now that I can talk about it’ dealt with the difficult issue of abuse by a family member and won best male actor at the 2014 Namibian Theatre and Film Awards (NTFA) for Dawie Engelbrecht, (also starring in ‘Salute’). ‘Stinky boy’ dealing with children’s rights was also successful and won best female actor at the NTFA 2014 for Anna Louw.
Where did the inspiration for ‘Salute’ come from?
While we worked in correctional facilities, inmates opened up to us and started to share their stories and their experiences. We met quite a few inmates whose story inspired the character of Carlito. Living in a correctional facility is difficult. It is a difficult environment and we tend to forget sometimes that inmates are first and foremost, people. We wanted to tell their stories, to give them a voice. Also as an organization, OYO strongly believes that condoms should be made available in correctional facilities. Regardless of what we think about gay sex, we need to give people a chance to protect themselves. There is no point in hiding behind morals while people get infected with HIV. Inmates don’t spend their whole life behind bars: they get out eventually. What is the point of having people going out with the virus, and further spreading it? We need to be pragmatic. Most inmates are not gay, but there are no women around. So for those who choose to have sex, or are forced to have sex, there should be protection for them.
Who in ‘Salute’ is most like their character/s?
Nobody really. Actors did fantastic work so their characters are believable. ‘The General’ and his ‘Gang’ spent a lot of time with ex-inmates working on their characters while Adriano Visagie, playing Carlito, had to find the right balance between being naïve and fitting into that environment. Odile Muller, who plays Julia, Carlito’s girlfriend, also did a fantastic job.
How long did the production of ‘Salute’ take?
It took over 18 months of research and writing of the script. The shooting happened over eleven days and the post-production took another six months.
What was the budget for this film? Who funded it?
The budget, excluding the research part, was roughly N$500,000.00. The production of the film was made possible thanks to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Global Fund).
What would it mean if this film wins at the awards?
It would be absolutely amazing. Oftentimes we are not considered for those awards, as our films deal with social issues that are not considered arty enough. This particular film dealing with issues around gay sex, rape and life in correctional facilities is a particularly difficult film. It would be amazing for Namibia and for Africa if the film could win. Those topics are taboo in many parts of Africa, they deal with a sensitive issue in Namibia. It could become an inspiration to many. It would also put Namibia on the map. We have stories to tell. We matter.
How did you get started in the film industry?
A little by accident to be honest. I come from the theatre and dance environment. I like the stage and its three-dimensionality. However touring a play is expensive: you need a cast and crew, transport, accommodation, logistics, dealing with sick actors, etc. I realized that while producing a DVD is expensive too, once it is done, it is easier to showcase everywhere. With our films, we can reach many more schools than with our plays. That’s why as an organization we moved away from theatre productions and got involved in film productions.
Who are the filmmakers that inspire your work today?
There are so many. I have always been impressed by the creativity of filmmakers such as David Lynch and The Wachowski (Lana Wachowski and Lilly Wachowski) for instance. They manage to create universes that are absolutely amazing.