Florian Schott’s short film Baxu and the Giants made its Netflix debut on 30 September 2020, which means every Namibian with a Netflix account and good internet connection finally has the opportunity to see the much celebrated film.
Baxu and the Giants is already a favourite with international festivalgoers and curators, since it’s premiere on the streaming service, it has been widely received by Namibian audiences who took to Twitter to share their excitement.
Here are some of the best reactions to Baxu and the Giants‘ Netflix premiere:
#BAXUANDTHEGIANTS was an experience. I loved it. I'm inspired all over again ❤ Thank you to everyone that was involved in creating this film. & s/o to the baby girl for carrying us through the journey so seamlessly
Florian Schott’s Baxu and the Giants is the first Namibian film to soon start showing on the popular streaming service, Netflix.
The 29-minute long film will be available on the streaming service from 30 September 2020.
According to Scott, the Netflix deal came about through one of the Film Festivals Baxu and the Giants took part in. Particularly the RapidLion International Film Festival hosted in March in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Apart from earning the Best Humanitarian Film nomination at the festival, Baxu and the Giants impressed one particular sales agent as well.
“I attended the festival with my wife and Production Coordinator Cherlien Schott and Karl Ehlers, one of our composers. At the festival, I had a meeting with a South African Sales Agent who watched Baxu and the Giants and as we stayed in touch they heard that Netflix was looking for African Shorts and that they were apparently interested in Baxu and the Giants,” Schott says.
Schott says while delivering the film to Netflix’s technical specs took a bit of time, they are “super happy that it all came together and our film will be available on Netflix soon.”
“Of course, it’s a huge honour to be the director of the first Namibian film on Netflix but the congratulations really need to go out to the whole Crew, especially Girley Jazama and Andrew Botelle, and of course our star Camilla Jo-Ann Daries,” Schott says.
Jo-Ann Daries won the Best Female Actress Award for depicting the 10-year old Baxu at the Namibian Theatre and Film Awards 2019. Equally, the film itself is loved by local and international audiences, having received numerous accolades here and overseas.
“I am confident that this is just the first of many Namibian productions on Netflix,” Schott adds. “And a huge opportunity for Namibian filmmakers to showcase their films around the world.”
On 27 August 2020, the first official soundtrack of Baxu and the Giants was released to the public. The beautiful single ‘Sada Di Tama Hâ’ by Lize Ehlers, Cherlien Schott, Karl Ehlers (LOFT) and Imms Nicolau feat. Camilla Jo-Ann Daries comes with an awesome video that was directed by Girley Jazama, who co-wrote the script of Baxu and the Giants. ‘Sada Di Tama Hâ’ directly translates to ‘not ours’ in Khoekhoegowab.
“As we got multiple requests to release the music from the film we’ll do that in the coming days as well,” the director says.
Multiple award-winning Namibian short film Baxu and the Giants, telling the story of how Rhino poaching triggers social change in rural Namibia, will be available globally to stream and download for free starting 20 March 2020.
The 29-minute film follows Baxu, a 9-year old girl who is in touch with nature and tradition but toughened by life in poverty, lives with her older brother Khata and an alcoholic grandmother in a village in Damaraland, Namibia.
Over the last six months, Baxu and the Giants screened in ten countries around the world, at over 20 Film Festivals and won multiple international awards, including the Award for Best Foreign Narrative at the San Francisco Independent Short Film Festival, three Namibian Theatre- and Film Awards (including Best Female Actor for 10-year-old Camilla Jo-Ann Daries), two international Cinematography Awards and two awards at the Knysna Film Festival in South Africa.
Just in the last few weeks, director Florian Schott presented the film to over 500 school children in Los Angeles as part of the Pan African Film Festival and at the RapidLion Film Festival in Johannesburg, where the film was also nominated for ‘Best Humanitarian Film’.
In addition to that, the Legal Assistance started showing the film to thousands of learners all across Namibia and MaMoKoBo Video & Research is busy bringing the film to all corners of Namibia via mobile screenings, in partnership with the Save the Rhino Trust and the Ministry of Environment & Tourism.
Baxu and the Giants will be available to stream on the official website as well as on YouTube and Vimeo.
The film is produced by Andrew Botelle (The Power Stone, Born in Etosha), directed and co/written by Schott (Katutura) and co-produced/co-written by Girley Jazama (The White Line).
With a population of just over 2.54 million and a relatively small film industry, the question regarding financial success seems pretty obvious. But let’s first look at some stuff.
The domestic film industry is slowly growing from strength to strength as there is an improvement in produced content, narratives as well as improved production quality and standards. New creative and innovative players penetrating the film market are also on the rise. However, the greatest challenge facing the Namibian film industry is the lack of consistent film funding and corporate/local investor buy-in. In fact, Namibian films, if not self-funded, are majorly funded by the Namibian Film Commission. Some (if not all) of these films have to source additional funding on top of the Commission’s funding to be completed.
In terms of distribution, unfortunately, Namibians don’t really seem to have a theatrical culture, except for when it comes to major Hollywood films. Major or big budget Namibian films do have theatrical runs for a very short time and are mostly attended by industry players, family, and a friend of a friend which in turn leads to straight-to-DVD releases. Local films can’t just play at the cinema every day for weeks on end because of the minimal financial resources and then there is the aspect of not having many cinemas spread across the rest of the country, meaning producers have to host screenings in different towns to actually afford Namibians to see their own films- which in turn comes at great financial costs and while the pace is slowly picking up, it has proven hard to convince corporate Namibia to fund local films. Most films, even those supported by the Film Commission barely make a profit because even when on DVD, not many people actually buy these DVDs.
So, can one make a living off making films in Namibia? Namib Insider! spoke to some of Namibia’s award-winning filmmakers on the possibilities. Here are their insights:
Tim Huebschle- Writer/Producer/Director (‘#LANDoftheBRAVEfilm’, ‘Looking For Iilonga’, ‘Another Sunny Day’,…)
Huebschle on Filmmaking in Namibia…
Filmmaking is all about storytelling. It’s narrative medium and you make use of images, music, sounds and the plot to tell a story. It’s this that drew me into the field when I was 21 years old. Since then the journey has been all about learning to tell better stories within the constraints of the medium. Constraints were and are largely made up of access to funds, access to equipment, the size of the local market and my own capabilities as a storyteller. But – the underlying current that drives each and every project is the passion I have for the medium and the act of storytelling itself. I love being a filmmaker and wouldn’t want to be anything else.
Huebschle on Making Money from Film In Namibia…
You can make a living of making movies in Namibia. There are a couple of realities. First and foremost you have to ask yourself what you want from life. Is it a fancy car and a nice house with loads of financial security. If your answer is yes, then the film industry is probably not for you. Especially in Namibia where the market is not that big, you have to realize that you probably will not ever make that mortgage payment on time, so don’t even apply for that bank loan… But if you’re able to bring in your lifestyle costs at a relatively low level and you keep your monthly overheads to a minimum, then you will be able to sustain yourself. You have to learn to stretch your income to cover the periods where you are not making loads of commissioned projects. Speaking of commissioned projects, you have to start applying your creativity to corporate videos, image films and public service announcements. These kinds of projects will provide your regular income. Whereas they may not necessarily be your passion project like your feature film is, these commissioned films will keep you going and help you fulfil your dreams while you are busy honing your skills as a cinematic storyteller. So embrace them, make the best possible commissioned film you can and keep on making them.
Heubscle on Getting Started and Keeping Work as A Filmmaker…
Nowadays social media has provided us with platforms where you’re able to showcase your content to the world. Plus the rise of smartphones has made video cameras super accessible to most people. If you want to break into the film industry and get noticed, then use these two, the social media and the smartphone, to start telling your stories. Put them out there to the world, build and listen to your audience and improve your style with every video you make. To stay working within the film industry, firstly diversify your skills set. Don’t just insist on being a director or camera person. Learn more about other fields within filmmaking such as editing, sound recording, casting, make-up, etc. You will find that there are more projects you’re able to work on if you don’t limit yourself to just one stream. More projects mean more income. And above all, keep your costs of living low. That doesn’t mean you have to be poor, it just means you have to manage your expenditure well and don’t get used to too many monthly overheads.
Marinda Stein- Writer/Producer/Director (‘Coming Home’, ‘Women of Our World’,…)
Stein on Filmmaking in Namibia…
I think any career in the arts does present some challenges. This can be attributed to the idea that it isn’t necessarily viewed as being sustainable like the mainstream careers that we’re bombarded with at school when having to make a decision about our futures. As a filmmaker, it is no different. And certainly not as a filmmaker in Namibia. For me being a filmmaker (more specifically writer and director) is about capturing the essence of the human spirit. Through stories, we can create understanding, tolerance, acceptance, create a society that is emphatic – something we so desperately need in our country too. I have said on so many occasions that we may not be engineers or managing banks, etc., but as filmmakers, we carry a huge responsibility for the social fabric of our society and our industry makes a huge contribution to our country’s economy, so we count. We matter.
Stein on Making Money from Film In Namibia…
I have made my living being an independent filmmaker for the past 10 years. However, it wasn’t by making films only. With my background in TV and diverse skills set, I did and still do a lot of commercial work to ensure my sustainability. Making films require huge budgets and we don’t have those all the time. While the Namibia Film Commission has call-outs for project submissions on an annual basis, it’s not enough to support every single filmmaker who has a story that she/he would like to turn into a film. So being in our industry requires us to be innovative. I had to learn so much along the way and I made many mistakes too. Before I entered the film industry I thought of myself as just a creative/ an artist, but that has since changed vastly. I had to learn to understand what being an entrepreneur meant (because that was essentially what I became), how to make sound business decisions – all with longterm sustainability in mind. The same year that my short film Coming Home premiered and my women series Women of Our World was released, was also the most difficult financially. Today I am still a writer and director, but I’d also like to think that I am a job creator and in addition stepped into the administrative side of film to make my contribution towards creating an enabling environment for current and future filmmakers. When I attended FESPACO in 2015, I also realised that as a Namibian film industry we have been operating in a silo for the longest time. There was (still is) a world of film out there and we were not (are not yet) part of it. This is slowly changing since our Namibian films are travelling to film festivals and we have online platforms where we can share our work with audiences around the globe. But if we cannot monetize the latter specifically then it doesn’t mean much to us as filmmakers. Distribution of our films has been a challenge historically. And that is something that even I am still learning about and continuously exploring. Because in order for our industry to grow, we need to be connected. Not just in our industry, but also to Africa and the world.
Stein on Getting Started and Keeping Work as A Filmmaker…
It may be equally exciting and daunting to choose a career in film. My advice is simple: identify what path it is that you want to take and work towards that. We have such beautiful talent in our country and we have young, gutsy filmmakers who have shown that they are fearless and passionate about telling stories. However, one doesn’t want to rely on your friends and make movies with ‘no money’ for every film like with your first. In my view there is no such thing as making a movie with ‘no money’ – while you are not physically paying someone for a service or equipment, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t cost anything. The ultimate goal is to be sustainable and that means creating a career that will pay the bills, take you on holiday, make you have a good life. Entering the industry also doesn’t mean having to start your own company. We see so many mushrooming, but is it beneficial to building an industry? Buying equipment on the cheap so you can offer services on the cheap as a one-man-show only harms the entire industry. We have to honour the value we have as well as that of our industry. Would it make more sense to combine your skills set with likeminded individuals to make films and offering your services together to clients (because you’re not only going to be making movies in our industry)? You don’t have to go at it on your own and we have a collective responsibility to build an industry that will outlive us all.
Understanding that funding opportunities are existing outside Namibia is crucial too. Connecting with fellow filmmakers is essential – the wheel doesn’t have to be reinvented. Most established filmmakers have gone down the same path so they can be engaged on what successes they had and how they went about it. There are also other opportunities in the industry because Namibia is a popular destination for foreign productions. While as writer/ director one would want to identify as a content producer, working on international productions create an opportunity for income for technical support crew and provides a great learning platform. With hard work and tons of perseverance, I got to where I am. But the film landscape is always changing and I have to be cognizant of that. So I must be willing and able to adapt.
Florian Schott- Writer/Director/Producer (‘Katutura’, ‘Baxu and the Giants’, ‘Everything Happens For a Reason’,…)
Schott on Filmmaking in Namibia…
I don’t think anyone can convince me that making films is not the best job in the world. As a filmmaker, you not only get to tell stories, entertain people, get them out of their lives and introduce them to a different one for a brief moment, but you have the chance to shape the world around you, to create a discussion about issues that are important. Being a filmmaker in Namibia comes with a unique set of opportunities and challenges. We have great opportunities here, as we have riches of stories, talent and unfortunately also quite a number of societal issues that need addressing. The challenges are a lack of support and funding. Making films is only possible in collaboration, and film can be expensive, so there is a constant fight in order to get funds to make films. But we are lucky that we have the Namibia Film Commission that not only helps filmmakers make films but also can help in getting the film out there – something that a lot of other African countries don’t have. So making films in Namibia it’s a challenge, but the fight is part of the experience, and the reward in having audiences react to your film is even sweeter if the road to making the film was challenging.
Schott on Making Money from Film in Namibia…
Let me just say that if you go into film for the money you are probably on the wrong path. There are many easier ways to make money. Personally, I can only make a living directing and writing films because of my work outside of the country. But I am in the privileged position to be able to make a living being a director. There are ways to make a living in film, but this way means not specialising on one thing only. It is hard living off directing or being a cinematographer, or writer, or editor only. But if you know how to do multiple things, like you can film and also edit, you do fictional films but also commercials and corporate videos, you direct but you can also service produce other production company’s films, or you work in film and also theatre – that way you can actually make a living of film in Namibia.
Schott on Getting Started and Keeping Work as A Filmmaker…
You have to continue working, always pushing ahead, always developing, not stopping. There were a few instances where I questioned if the fight is worth it, as the work you put in and at least the financial reward of it is definitely not in any healthy proportion. But the impact your films can have, just in the last weeks seeing hundreds of kids’ reactions after watching Baxu and the Giants is worth every minute you put into your films. Or the hundreds of emails, messages and just personal encounters after Katutura, and how it inspired young people to want to make films; this is what keeps you going. You know there will be people appreciating locally produced films and stories. And I feel it’s important, especially for young people, to read books and watch films in their own languages. But it’s not only the result – the work itself, working with great co-writers, actors and crew is also just a beautiful way to spend your working life. I wouldn’t give it up for anything else in the world.
Oshoveli Shipoh- Director/Producer (‘Hairareb’, ‘Painted Scars’, ‘Looking For Nelao’,…)
Shipoh on Filmmaking in Namibia…
When you have an intimate population that is so well informed about anything and everything, it becomes an opportunity to rise and have a voice in the industry. A voice that can express stories in any shape or form. For me personally, the most important way to stay relevant as a filmmaker is to bring your business ‘A-game’ to the table. A lot of filmmakers pitch for work from an artistic perspective because they are passionate about the work. It’s an admirable thing but one must remember that the client expects you to be passionate regardless. The reality is that if you can’t convince a client why it is in their best interest to utilise your services, I think then we’ll have a lot of struggling filmmakers.
Shipoh on Making Money from Film in Namibia…
You can absolutely make money from film here. I’ve noticed an increasingly high demand for my services over the past year, which has grown beyond the lights, camera and action. It’s unfortunate that our industry is not yet big enough to only focus on one component of the film industry. As a Namibian filmmaker, we should see ‘film’ as a tool to penetrate every corner of the industry. We have to take advantage of what we’re good at so that anyone in any sector will want to pay you to do what you enjoy doing. In SA the industry is so big that an actor can make a career from just doing soapies and nothing else, we don’t have that here, unfortunately. So as an established film director I don’t just focus on doing feature films and shorts, I’m directing commercials, documentaries, corporate videos and now recently just started my first film workshop.
Shipoh on Getting Started and Keeping Work as A Filmmaker…
I’m thankful for being in a position where I don’t need to look for film projects, they come looking for me. So when I get started I ensure to keep paying as much attention to the details of the vision of the film without getting lost in the artistic mess. To adapt and stay relevant in the industry we need to go beyond limitation.
Desiree Kahikopo- Director/Producer (‘The White Line’,.)
Kahikopo on Filmmaking in Namibia…
In all honesty, filmmaking is great because we love it and it is hard at the same time. For you to do this and pursue with everything that comes with it and it’s not easy, you have to love it, really really love it. In Namibia, because the industry is still growing and we only have one funding body and not very keen corporate companies and private individuals willing to invest in film, it really is challenging on the financing part and we need funds to make films or tv shows and distribution is especially difficult too.
Kahikopo on Making Money from Film in Namibia…
I have been in the arts and film industry for a while and I have not been able to make a living out of it as off yet, but it is possible, I think the public is really interested in Namibian films and are willing to go see films and that equals box office returns, and with proper marketing to fill up the cinemas and distribution that works both ways, filmmakers can make a living and of course with the involvement of corporate companies and individuals to invest in this art form because they can recoup their investments. We can’t do this alone.
Kahikopo on Getting Started and Keeping Work as A Filmmaker…
Look at what you’re interested in doing with in the industry ( Camera, acting, directing) and look around to see what’s out there; casting, people looking for crew members and get started. Networking and relationship building is important, it gets you started and keeps you working. And just work hard and be consistent and persistent.
On Wednesday 5 February, 92nd Academy Award Best Documentary nominee, Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts’ For Sama opened Goethe Institute Namibia’s art-house film programme, ‘Cinemaverse’.
The film, following Waad’s life through five years of the uprising in Aleppo as she falls in love, gets married and gives birth to Sama, forms a line-up of films from Germany, Sudan and South Africa which will be screened at the Goethe Instituut Windhoek over the course of 2020.
Apart from For Sama, films that make up the first half of the Cinemaverse programme are Transit by Christian Petzold, Akasha by Hajooj Kuka, Systemsprenger by Nora Fingscheidt and Sew The Winter To My Skin by Jahmil X.T. Qubeka. The second-half programme for Cinemaverse is currently being put together.
Cinemaverse is co-curated by Namibian filmmaker Florian Schott and Zimbabwean filmmaker Nocks Chatiza. According to Schott, the idea of ‘Cinemaverse’ was born out of the need for films outside of the mainstream.
“Many Namibians now have access to DStv, to Netflix and films that screen at Ster Kinekor. But there are so many cinematic gems out there, beautiful, moving and important films that unfortunately Namibians don’t have access to on their usual distribution channels. In the last few months, I’ve travelled to film festivals around the globe, from Munich to San Francisco to Warsaw, to Lagos and to Knysna, and I watched many wonderful films that I felt would be appreciated by Namibians, films that deserve to be screened far and wide, their messages being meaningful and important for Namibian audiences as well,” Schott says.
Around mid last year, Schott, along with a number of other Namibian artists from different sectors were invited to the Goethe Institute to discuss planned exhibitions and programmes.
“As I fondly remember AfricAvenir’s cinema series, which Hans-Christian Mahnke curated and organised but sadly had to stop a few years ago due to workload and budget, I suggested bringing independent films back to Namibia. In AfricAvenir’s film series I watched so many fantastic films I wouldn’t have gotten the chance to watch otherwise that changed my view on film and sometimes the world. Controversial South African film Of Good Report comes to mind, so does the classic The Battle of Algiers,” Schott explains.
When approached by Goethe to curate a similar program, Schott knew Chatiza, who just recently moved to Windhoek, was the first and only choice to curate with him as he has experience with film festivals and independent films.
“The task was to not only bring African independent films to Goethe but also independent films from outside of Africa. In my extensive travels over the last few months, I watched many great films that I knew immediately that I wanted to bring to Windhoek, but I’m also regularly visiting film sites such as Indiewire to see what is happening in independent cinema around the world. So our idea was to have films and stories that are diverse, relevant and definitely different from the mainstream. By the way, we are always open to great ideas and great films we might not know yet,” Schott adds.
For Chatiza, art-house films- especially those with a strong storyline- derive passion. He notes without a good story there can not be a good movie.
“I believe as much as films should entertain the audience – they should also have social, moral and educational values. Films should be always about a Characters’ journey and character fulfilment, not about glitz and glamour, technology superiority and product marketing like what we see daily in the mainstream cinemas. Cinemaverse gave me the opportunity to experience and share those films that I believe their storyline will emotionally move/touch the audience. I love to use storytelling and film as a tool for positive social change,” Chatiza says.
As a filmmaker himself, the films being screen at Cinemaverse are films Chatiza would like to produce and share with the world.
“Not abstract storylines but human storylines. I want to make stories about human struggles for survival in their own right and at the same time showcase both sides of human internal conflict, love vs hate, good vs bad,” Chatiza expresses.
Chatiza has been involved in film festivals in Berlin, Noway, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia and it is his hope that Cinemaverse succeeds in bringing unique films to the Namibian audience and growing the film viewing culture that will enable the growth of the Namibian film industry.
The next Cinemaverse film Transit by Director Christian Petzold will be screened on 4 March at the Goethe Institute. The film is about a man who flees France after the Nazi invasion and assumes the identity of a dead author. Stuck in Marseilles, the man meets a young woman desperate to find her missing husband – the very man he is impersonating.
Entrance to the Cinemaverse is free. Below is the first programme:
Florian Schott’s award-winning short film Baxu and the Giants will have its first Namibian public screening for the year at the DHPS Auditorium, on Thursday, 6 February, for free.
Additionally, the Legal Assistance Centre and MaMoKoBo Video & Research will host a series of screenings at schools in Windhoek, including other free screenings for the public in Windhoek.
Later in the year, the film will also be screened in villages north-west of Namibia, where the film was shot, including in the coast.
All of these screenings will lead up to the Global Release of Baxu and the Giants in mid-March. At this time the film will not only be available on DVD but also for streaming worldwide via YouTube and Vimeo.
International Festivals where Baxu and the Giants will be screening in the coming two months include the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles, the Toronto Black Film Festival, the Children’s Film Festival Seattle and the RapidLion International Film Festival in South Africa.
The Namibian short which premiered in September 2019 already screened in nine countries and won multiple international awards, including the Award for Best Foreign Narrative at the San Francisco Independent Short Film Festival, three Namibian Theatre- and Film Awards (including Best Female Actor for 10-year-old Camilla Jo-Ann Daries), two international Cinematography Awards and two Awards at the Knysna Film Festival in South Africa.
Baxu and the Giants tells the story of how rhino poaching triggers social change in a village in rural Namibia, seen through the eyes of a nine-year-old girl. Producer Andrew Botelle (The Power Stone, Born in Etosha) enlisted Director and Co-Writer Florian Schott (Katutura) and Co-Producer/Co-Writer Girley Jazama (The White Line) to craft an emotional story around rhino poaching.
Director Florian Schott’s short film, Baxu and the Giants, had its world premiere in September 2019 and has already won awards for Best Foreign Narrative in San Francisco, 3 Namibian Theatre & Film Awards (Best Female Actor, Best Editing, Best Production Design), 2 monthly international Cinematography Awards (at the Canadian Cinematography Awards and the European Cinematography Awards) and 2 Awards at the Knysna Film Festival for Best Cinematography for a Short Film and Best Supporting Actor for a Short Film.
The film is proving to be favourite with international film festivals having already screened at the San Francisco Independent Short Film Festival in the United States, the Wallachia International Film Festival in Romania, and the Knysna Film Festival in neighbouring South Africa.
Next week, the film will screen at the 2019 Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF) in Nigeria. According to Schott, Baxu and the Giants has confirmed screenings at the AfryKamera African Film Festival in Poland in December 2019, at the Barbados Independent Film Festival in January 2020, at the Cape Town International Film Market & Festival in October 2020 as well as screenings in Los Angeles and Silicon Valley in the USA sometime in 2020 and still awaiting a number of decisions from various film festivals around the globe.
Schott talks more about the international success of the film:
Baxu and the Giants is doing really well internationally, with three international wins so far. Why do you think the film is performing so well?
I had the privilege to watch the film with audiences in three different countries so far and everywhere we go our story really seems to connect emotionally with the people watching it. I think that no matter where you come from you can easily understand Baxu’s motivations and connect with her moral dilemma.
The film has screened at a number of festivals and is scheduled to screen at more festivals over the next few months. What is the importance of film festivals, for you as a filmmaker and for Baxu and the Giants as an anti-rhino poaching activism piece?
Our strategy for this film was always two-fold. First, bring the film to Namibian audiences, especially children and teenagers. We are busy planning this right now. Bringing the film to schools, do more public screenings all around the country and show the film villages that are most affected by Rhino poaching. Secondly, we want to raise awareness on the issue of rhino poaching of Namibia. In travelling with the film to festivals we chat to audiences about the importance of conservation and the urgency of this issue. Next to this – for me as a filmmaker – these film festivals are great places to showcase Namibian film, to network, to watch independent cinema from around the world and to chat to potential partners when it comes to distribution but also potential future projects.
You have done a number of films, where would you place Baxu and the Giants in terms of success compared to your other films?
This is such a difficult question. I think all of my films had very different goals, so it’s almost impossible to compare them. For Everything Happens for a Reason I was just glad that people were interested in the film, and I had a bit of financial success with it, winning the Afrinolly Short Film Competition in Nigeria. Katutura probably had the biggest impact when it comes to expectations for a Namibian film. I think our biggest success with that was proving clearly that Namibian audiences are interested in watching well-made Namibian stories if you give them the chance to. Baxu and the Giants is really well received, both in Namibia and internationally, and I hope that this film can be a part in making a real difference in the fight against rhino poaching. And it hopefully inspires other filmmakers to think of the youth and children as potential audiences for their stories. But as I mentioned, it’s almost impossible to compare. I am very happy with the reception of all of my films.
“It’s very comforting that you share the experience of being an independent filmmaker with so many other filmmakers from around the world.” – Florian Schott
Overall, has the response to Baxu and the Giants stacked up to your expectations?
Yes, it actually went way beyond my expectations. We did foresee a positive response from a Namibian audience but the international response, especially from children and teenagers both in Namibia and outside of the country, the way people identify with Baxu and her story, is really beautiful.
You have travelled to a number of countries with the film. Is there something you’ve learned about films you’d like to share?
As a filmmaker, you learn a bit with every film you watch, every conversation you have with fellow filmmakers and I am privileged to be able to watch a lot of films that are not available in cinemas or online at these festivals. It’s very comforting that you share the experience of being an independent filmmaker, with all its struggles – especially in terms of development, budget and distribution – with so many other filmmakers from around the world.
So, Baxu and the Giants is enjoying international attention now, coming back to Namibia, are there any plans to show the film in other towns other than Windhoek?
Yes. We have two more public screenings in Windhoek planned, optimally this year still.
The Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) already brought the film to various schools around the country and we are busy putting a plan together to bring the film to all corners of Namibia in 2020.
Baxu and the Giants follows Baxu (Jo-Ann Daries), a 9-year old girl who is in touch with nature and tradition but toughened by life in poverty, lives with her older brother Khata (Wafeeq /Narimab) and their alcoholic grandmother (Anna Louw) in a village in Damaraland, Namibia. Schott co-wrote the film with Girley Jazama.
From the Director of the award-winning feature film, Katutura comes a new live-action short film on rhino poaching and social change.
Florian Schott’s new short film, Baxu and the Giants is a story on how rhino poaching triggers a social change in a village in Damaraland, told through the eyes of an 8-year-old girl, Baxu, who is in touch with nature and her own heritage. The name Baxu is short for “!ubaxu”, which means ‘I come from the soil’.
According to Schott, the film highlights poaching and social issues in the surrounding communities. Schott adds that the film comes with a sense of poetry in the imagery; the music and the way the young hero tells her story, taking the audience from time of hunters and gatherers to modern-day.
“There will be elements of magical realism in the story as there will be dream sequences and parts of the story being narrated by our young hero but the story itself will be told in a very realistic way,” Schott says.
When the Legal Assistance Center commissioned Andrew Botelle from MaMoKoBo Video & Research to produce a film with the aim of sensitizing teenagers to the issue of poaching in rural Namibia, Schott and his co-writer Girley Jazama took up the opportunity to tell this story from the inside out; through the eyes of an innocent but toughened-by-life girl.
“Through this storytelling device, the aim is to reach an audience worldwide and for audiences to understand some of the underlying social issues in rural Namibia that can lead to poaching”
Baxu and The Giant will premiere on 19 September 2019.
The German-born filmmaker living in Namibia since 2009, is popularly known as the Director of the award-winning feature film Katutura (2015) and short film Everything Happens for a Reason (2013).
Schott is currently in preparation to direct a crime series in Germany which will be shot between July and August. Apart from that, Schott is also developing his second feature film; a survival thriller in the desert- and a comedy TV series that he hopes to be able to shoot in Namibia in the next two years.
The Business That Is Film
Is the film business fair? Particularly, in the Namibian context. How do you make the apparatus work for you?
It’s difficult to talk about fairness in film as it is such a creative business, but still so controlled by the access to money. Privilege definitely plays a role. I had the chance to do unpaid internships on films for over a year before my first paid job, and I know that many people just couldn’t have the opportunity as their financial situation wouldn’t allow for that. For me; working harder, constantly developing, writing has worked so far. People don’t wait to spend money on your film, you have to bring the ideas, the work, the people, then you might get a shot.
How does working within tight restrictions (time, money and talent) force you to be more creative? What have been your lowest (and highest) budget films to date?
Any film comes with restrictions but that’s where your creativity gets challenged the most and sometimes the creative way to deal with a restriction might be the more interesting solution than your original idea. My lowest budgeted film was definitely “Everything Happens for a Reason”, which cost around N$12.000, right now I’m working with the highest budgets I’ve worked with so far.
Do filmmakers have any responsibility to culture? Do you feel that being a creative person requires that you give back or tell a particular story or not do something else?
I think filmmakers should be part of creating a culture. We can tell any story we like but in general, we should try setting an example of a culture and mindset for the future, not the past.
What was the hardest artistic choice you made as a director, at any stage in production?
That’s a difficult question. As a director you have to make a few hundred choices each day, some harder, some easier, from scripting choices to Cast to locations to every piece of Costume, vehicle, prop, hairstyles, the feel and rhythm of the film, the look, camera angles and movements, sound, music and so many many more. All of these choices combined will create the final film, so I couldn’t single out anyone in particular.
Thoughts on the Namibian film industry? What should be done to further grow the industry?
I feel that we have to try to get a wider range of films made – and then get them out into public view. As our population is quite small we can’t rely on big budgets as these will be hard to get back. We should try to get an infrastructure which allows filmmakers to make more films with a comparatively small budget, telling personal, truly Namibian stories.
What kind of routines do you tend to keep around writing or filmmaking, or do you even have one? How does a typical day (for you) begin?
This really depends on the stage of production. My day writing is completely different from my day developing to my day prepping to my day shooting to my day editing. There is no special routine. Just get the work done. I try to look back at any week and see that I made significant progress with one or more projects. That fuels me for the next week.
Where does an idea for a movie usually begin for you?
Literally anywhere, anytime. I woke up in the morning with an idea to a film before, some come to me while thinking about something else, some might be a mix of other ideas you had before. So there is no system, just me trying to write down every idea I have, and once in a while checking up on my ideas to see which one is ready to grow.
What role have film festivals played in your life so far? Why are they necessary? How do you get the most out of them?
Every year I plan on spending more time on film festivals as it is a great opportunity to build contacts and develop the contacts you have already, work on collaborations. Unfortunately, there is never enough time as so many times my production schedules clashed with the timing of the festivals. But I plan on utilizing them much more in the future.
Is it essential to go to a film institute in order to become a successful filmmaker?
I have never been to a film school so no, I don’t think it’s essential. I quite like a quote by Quentin Tarantino: “I didn’t go to film school, I went to films”. You need to be taught film, but you can choose what the best way is for you. In my youth, I was working in a cinema, watched as many films as I could and read all I could read about it. Nowadays the internet and youtube make learning about the film even easier. An advantage of film school is the contacts you make though, to other filmmakers, to actors, getting equipment, getting something done – much easier than in the ‘real world’. So I think it’s up for everybody to decide for themselves what might work best for them.
In your experience, are Namibian actors easy to give direction? Do they tap into character/emotion easily?
That is not something one can generalize. Every person is different, every actor has a different approach to their craft, every actor has different upbringings and life experiences, no matter where they are from.
(Schott and his wife, Cherlien at the premiere of ‘Katutura’)
Does race or gender make any impact on your work?
This is a difficult question. As I am a filmmaker that lives in Namibia but grew up in Europe I do ask myself a lot which stories I can be telling and which maybe require a different voice than mine. I discovered the joy and importance of collaboration. I do for example want to make a film with a strong black female character, but I feel that I need a black female voice for that. So I try to create opportunities for myself to learn, to listen and to grow.
Do you find the process of working with other collaborators difficult or essential (or both)?
The film is a collaboration. For me it’s essential. You can’t do a film alone, it will grow and change and become its own thing only through the hard work of many creative people.
Your top five films?
I don’t really have a top five. There are too many fantastic films, for several different reasons, that this list keeps changing based on where I am in my life and there are many masterpieces in all different genres.
If you got the opportunity to remake a classic, which one would you go for?
There are so many great stories out there. Why remake a classic if you can create something fresh?
If you got the opportunity to go back in time and change something in any particular movie of yours, then which movie and what changes will you opt for?
On any of my films, there are loads of things I would do differently if I would do them now. But these films and all of these choices I did came from me at that time, so all my films are a reflection of my development.
What was the last great film you saw? What was the last great book you read?
Woah, as I’m close to shooting I am so involved in the stories we are about to tell that it is really difficult to single out a single film or book. There is the joy of watching a really great film or a really great book but it’s always the time after a project that I try to really catch up on watching more and reading more.