She gave a very impressive performance as Sylvia Kamutjemo in Desiree Kahikopo’s The White Line (2019), but it is not the first film Hollywood Immersive Alumna, Girley Jazama, has been in.
Apart from playing the role of an anguished black domestic worker who falls in love with her caucasian employer during the apartheid era, Jazama starred in films like Cries at Night (2010), Underneath The Sky (2016), 100 Bucks (2012) and Three and a Half Lives of Philip Wetu (2009).
Jazama also acted in various theatre and television productions. In 2014 she was nominated for the best supporting actor at the 2014 Namibia Film and Theatre Awards for her role in Hafeni Muzanima’s theatre play, Revere Them Those Men her role as Divine Edison, a transgender woman.
The actress, producer, and writer is nominated for Best Female Actor for her role as Sylvia in The White Line at the 2019 Namibian Film and Theatre Awards slated for 5 October.
In this interview, Jazama shares her acting journey which spans over 12 years, working on The White Line and her upcoming film project directed by Perivi Katjavivi.
What are your favourite moments in The White Line?
It’s really hard to choose a favourite moment in the film because I loved every moment I acted as Sylvia in the film. My co-actors are amazing and it’s a beautiful movie overall.
Your character, Sylvia in ‘The White Line’ is very emotional and is in an anguished state most of the time. What helped you stay in character and at the end of the shoot, how did you tap out of that state?
When you are acting you have to learn how to be ‘in character’. This takes practice and it takes time, and your character develops during rehearsals and during your own research. When I am on set, I am no longer who I am now- this real-life Girley Jazama. I was Sylvia. I learn to become Sylvia. Acting is like peeling an onion. You have to peel away each layer to reveal another. I am a method actor which means I aspire to complete identification with a part. The cast and crew all knew this. While I was on set my name was Sylvia and they treated me as Sylvia. You just focus on where you came from in the story and where you are going. All the while you remain in character. One funny thing that every actor will tell you is, when you finish filming, you slip in and out of character for a few days or weeks. It’s almost like you are going through withdrawal symptoms post-production. Sylvia was such an intense character that I had a tough few days adjusting from being Sylvia. After the highs of filming it took time to fit back into the real-life of mine and a great debrief helped. This is the moment I shed being Sylvia, it takes time but eventually, you become yourself again.
You are nominated for Best Female Actress the 2019 Film and Theatre Awards. How did it feel to see yourself nominated for the role of Sylvia?
It’s a privilege and a pleasure to be nominated because on the one hand acting can be a lonely experience. So, this is recognition for all the hard work I personally put in over the years as an actress. On the other hand, being nominated for Best Lead Actress is a complete team effort. It is the rest of the cast and crew that made me look so good on the big screen. Although the film is set in apartheid Namibia in the ’60s, the character Sylvia is close to my heart and her life is not so different from the life of many young women today; being in love with a person from another ethnicity can still be quite difficult in independent Namibia.
On the set of The White Line what was your working relationship with the other actors, especially Jan-Barrend Scheepers and Sunet van Wyk who were the male lead and antagonist, respectively?
As Producers, Michael, Desiree and I cast the actors. We knew from the first time we saw them act in their roles that JB and Sunet were perfect for their characters. On and off-set we got along extremely well, and we still do today. I will work with them again in the near future. They are beautiful people, on and off-set. We were empathetic towards each other and the roles we had to embody. We fed off of each other’s energy on set, allowing us all to give stellar performances. I personally believe all the cast members in The White Line are great actors. We all gave it our all, including the crew, which is why The White Line has been nominated in 7 categories for the 2019 Namibia Theatre and Film Awards.
Baxu and the Giants which you co-wrote with Florian Schott is doing pretty well. You must be proud?
Florian and I wrote the first draft of the script in a matter of days. We shared this with the producers and they loved it too. From then on it went pretty smoothly. We went location scouting around North West Namibia to locate the people and places where the story was to take place. It’s great to be recognised for the strong script we wrote and now our film has been nominated for “Best Narrative Film” at the 2019 Namibia Theatre and Film Awards. Baxu and the Giants also won Best Foreign Narrative Film at the San Francisco Independent Short Film Festival.
Tell us about your journey into the acting business.
I started acting at school, I can’t even remember how old I was at the time. We were fortunate enough to have a drama class at Karibib Private School where I was exposed to the art of acting. I remember one of my first roles was in The Lion King, where I played the role of Rafiki at school. I even performed as James Brown at our school musical to the degree that my parents didn’t realise it was me- I remember my mother asking who the boy was who performed as James Brown.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years? More in acting, directing, or writing or all three combined?
I see myself based in Namibia and acting all over the world. Working with great actors and great directors in amazing places. I will also continue to write and produce as well as venture into directing in the near future.
You mentioned you are currently working on a project?
I’m working on a number of film projects right now. I have been cast in Under The Hanging Tree, directed by Perivi Katjavivi and produced by Cecil Moller. It will be a great film and I look forward to being challenged by the character I will be playing. I’m also working on some of my own film projects, a historical characterisation of Prince /Haihab, an unsung Namibian hero, currently in the research phase. I’m also working on a series idea entitled, Retrenched, inspired by my personal experience of being retrenched. One thing you learn as a producer or filmmaker is to always have at least one other idea ready, so when the need arises, you are ready to pitch a film idea.
What TV show character would be the most fun to change places with for a week?
Annalise Keating (Viola Davis) from How To Get Away With Murder.
If you were given a PhD degree but had no more knowledge of the subject of the degree besides what you have now, what degree would you want to be given to you?
A PhD in Astrophysics.