Star rating (out of 5): ★★★★
Directed by: #Tim Huebschle
Looking For Iilonga (2011) is a short film set in Namibia which is a quietly powerful tale about a young father who, living with his family in the remote arid farmlands, has to venture into the urban township to repay the money his wife owes to some Tsotsi gangsters.
The film begins with a car accident as a smartly dressed executive looks to drive away from an unsightly beggar late at night after work, setting the tone for the rich and poor divide. We’re then taken across the vast desert landscape of Namibia as we drive with the smartly dressed Tsotsi gangsters in their 4x4 jeep to the home of Simon (Onesmus Uupindi), the young father and his family, living in the middle of nowhere. The Tsotsi are there to collect their money which the mother had borrowed for the family’s needs and whilst the exchange is brief, business-like and almost friendly there is a threatening undertone of real menace. Luckily a lifeline is offered, if Simon leaves his family behind and takes some work in the township, he can then pay back the debt. So he agrees and sets off, full of duty and purpose but when he arrives his sweet natured out-of-town disposition doesn’t last long.
Written and directed by Tim Huebschele the film is nicely shot and edited together illustrating the contrasting lives between rural life and the urban township. As Simon heads into the city, his look of awe when he sees the housing in the township is a picture, whilst the flow between the different places and environments is nicely differentiated through the changing wild tracks of nature and human activity. There is an overriding theme of money here and the poverty gap emphasised through the homes, the fashion clothes, modern cars and also western speaking.
The soundtrack is a folky melody that mirrors the film’s hopeful journey tinged with a sad melancholy as we see Simon’s transition from a confident rural homemaker to a lost and confused soul wandering the township barefooted. The film is subtitled and is supported by the Namibia film commission suggesting, despite its tale of hardship and criminality, it has been given the local thumbs up of approval.
This is a provocative short film from Namibia about family, money and work whose main character shows his good intentions to do the right thing by his family, but in a cruel unjust world ends up out of his depth unable to protect himself or his family. It’s a tale that highlights the differences between rural and urban life and the disparity between the rich and the poor that often comes with it. Metaphorically, the story seems to be all tied together here by a floating plastic bag that floats about everywhere - this would usually appear to be some kind of environmental reference, but here it seems to carry a much deeper, multi-purpose significance.