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Film Review: ‘Hairareb’ Thrives On Strong Ending And Its Stars

Director: Oshoveli Shipoh
Screenplay: Aina Kwedhi
Cast: David Ndjavera, Claudine de Groot, Hazel Hinda and Kadeen Kaoseb, Willem Egbert Moller, Bianca Heyns, Naomunic Feris, Moria Kambrudes

Hairareb, based on a book by August C. Bikeur which was later adapted into a well-known-and loved Khoekhoegowab radio drama, is a passable film surviving only on its emotional ending and the strikingly expressive performances delivered by its four leading actors David Ndjavera, Claudine de Groot, Hazel Hinda and Kadeen Kaoseb.

Both Hairareb (Ndjavera) and /Ininis (de Groot) enter their marriage with murky intentions. Hairareb, who is troubled by the effects of a devastating drought enters a mutually beneficial trade involving /Ininis with her alcoholic stepfather (Willem Egbert Moller). /Ininis, on the other hand, has her life complicated by her galling young boyfriend, !Nausub (Kaoseb). When Hairareb and /Ininis unexpectedly fall in love with each other, things take a turn for the worse.

Hairareb which falls within the ‘tragic romance’ genre, opens with a very interestingly welcoming monologue by (from, rather) Hairareb. That opening was in Khoekhoegowab with English subtitles and was voiced by Hosni Jr Sidney Narib and not by Ndjavera who plays Hairareb. From this onset, the high hopes I had for the film started to shatter. Casting Ndjavera for the role of Hairareb might have been deliberate, but I am pretty sure with his calibre and strong theatre background, Ndjavera would’ve easily rehearsed and delivered his character’s introductory monologue.

Screen Shot 2019-09-02 at 6.35.15 PM

David Ndjavera and Willem Egbert Moller in Hairareb.

The 1h55-minute-long film continues in English throughout, apart from some Khoekhoegowab words here and there. As much as I understand that the producers want to reach an international audience, telling the story in Khoekhoegowab with English subtitles wouldn’t have ruined those chances (particularly for this film)- our immediate neighbour South Africa tells the majority of their films in their local languages and these films are great, mostly. The acting, specifically from the supporting cast, would’ve been much better if they spoke in their mother-tongues.

Apart from this missed opportunity, director Oshoveli Shipoh had exceptional moments in his film. First, casting the self-confessed video vixen de Groot in her first ever movie is commendable. De Groot gave a stellar performance alongside Ndjavera and Hinda,-two of Namibia’s most talented and longest practising thespians. Then there was the love-making scene between Hairareb and /Ininis and the fighting scene between Hairareb and !Nausub in which the very pregnant /Ininis is injured- this was the real kicker.

The Ndapunikwa Investments produced film also has some melodramatic twists here and there, but they are trivial and not worth mentioning. The screenplay, written by Aina Kwedhi gave the film humdrum dialogue which made some scenes come off as very superficial. Doing justice to its ‘drought-stricken’ plotline, Hairareb was shot at Okarundu and Otjimbingwe which perfectly presented the film in the arid landscape it is meant for.

All in all, Hairareb manages to be engaging due to its stars, popularity with older audiences who know and loved the radio drama and it will most definitely pull heartstrings in some unexpected places, especially leading up to the end.

Hairareb had its Namibian premiere in Windhoek at Ster Kinekor Grove and Maerua on the 30th and 31st August 2019. The film was produced by Dantagos Jimmy-Melani and Ellen Ernst.

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