Director: Philippe Talavera
Screenplay: Senga Brockerhoff, Mikiros Garoes
Cast: Adrino Visagie, Simon Hanga, Chanwill Vries, Elize de Wee, Mikiros Garoes, Jeremiah Jeremiah, Felicity Celento, Albertina Hainane, Foreversun Haiduwah, Lukas Paulus
Apart from unapologetically taking male same-sex relationships to the silver screen, Philippe Talavera’s Kapana shows its worth by not deriding HIV. In so many ways the film is an intimate, charming queer-themed romantic drama which offers a fresh take on HIV/AIDS in the queer community in Namibia.
Being another film from the activist group, Ombetja Yehinga Organisation (OYO), Kapana can thrust HIV/AIDS onto the Namibian silver screen with its message of acceptance and love. Not problematic in delivering its message, the film was crafted with a compelling screenplay which helps make this a non-generic story that engages its audiences on a personal level.
Kapana explores the love story between two men who come from different walks of life. Award-winning actor Adriano Visagie stars in the film as George, an HIV-positive gay man who falls in love with Simeon (Simon Hanga), a closeted Kapana (grilled beef strips) vendor. The film deserves applause for not relying on the popular and often true trope of homophobic, unsupportive family and friends. George, being an openly gay man, receives great support and love from his family as seen through his mother (Felicity Celento), aunt (Elize de Wee), brother (Chanwill Vries) and coworkers played by Mikiros Garoes and Foreversun Haiduwah. The relationships between these friends and family offer a fresh and much-needed narrative on same-sex relationship, especially in Namibia, which still criminalizes the sexual relationships between two men under the outdated sodomy law.
Kapana is a win for director Talavera but most importantly because of his collaborative take on this film. He employed Senga Brockerhoff and Mikiros Garoes to craft the storyline and using one of the country’s best cinematographers (Kit Hoffman) and film editors (Haiko Boldt) to put together the film. This film is in so many ways much better than the director’s 2018 film, Salute! and signals a lot of growth in the director’s film career.
While the film was put together impressively and its message communicated smoothly, I can however not say the same about the performances which were stale and forced. This film had the potential of being very emotional and gripping, however, that aspect fell flat due to the lacklustre performances which I suppose come from the film requiring so much vulnerability which almost all actors just couldn’t pull off. ‘Fake acting’ and overacting does nothing but ruin films, and Kapana has an abundance of it. It was, however, refreshing to see newcomer actors Hanga and Vries give such stunning performances at their first go and equally refreshing to see the versatile side of de Wee.
But Kapana is worthy of your time and will give you a different look into Namibian queer relationships, relationships with someone living with HIV while highlighting the power of love from friends and family.