Tim Huebschle on the set of Orange Juice
Though orange juice, bicycles and bullet train journeys may have little to do with each other outside an Elizabeth Gilbert novel, local writer-director, Tim Huebschle, managed to weave them all into an awesome African adventure set on the banks of the Amstel River while presenting two of his films at the Africa in the Picture Film Festival in Amsterdam last fortnight. After having won Best Short Film at the AmaSiko Heritage Festival in Pretoria for the noir’esque Orange Juice (2010) last month, Huebschle’s star continued to rise in the director’s double billing at the intercontinental festival which showcased the work of over 50 filmmakers from Africa and the African Diaspora, mostly in the presence of the relevant filmmaker.
“I was blessed to receive funding from the Namibia Film Commission to attend the festival and I am deeply grateful for that,” says Huebschle. “Unfortunately, for networking opportunities it wasn’t as successful as I imagined it to be, simply because the festival focused on the audience, not on distributors, agents and filmmakers. But to know that your film is being screened in a European country is definitely sexy!”
Sexy, indeed, however; when Huebschle wasn’t simply enjoying the sleek sophistication of Amsterdam’s film scene he was tasked with the strange charge of presenting alien actors, with alien accents grappling with alien issues to an astute audience. “The audiences in Amsterdam were particularly interested in the conditions in our country,” says Huebschle. “This was the first time a filmmaker from Namibia attended the festival and thus it was a golden opportunity to gather more information about its social realities.”
While having a foreign audience view his films in his presence was a thrill in itself, Huebschle was surprised to find that when viewing his films outside of Africa he felt somewhat like a foreigner himself. “Every time I watch my movies with people, I see the movies completely afresh and watching my films in Amsterdam made them look almost foreign to me...somehow different and strange,” says Huebschle.
Granting the fact that his films were in the presence of other formidable African films, Huebschle sees this not as a detraction but as a shared level of quality and creativity to be proud of. “Seeing your films alongside their equivalents is such an important experience because as a director you notice that you are not the only one out there. There are many more talented people and that is good to know,” says Huebschle respectfully.
In fact, Huebschle can’t stress the importance of African filmmakers submitting their films to festivals enough and cites relevance, competence, exposure and building a following as the main benefits of screening internationally. “You get to know how your films impact on a global scale and how they are perceived by audiences from different walks of life,” says Huebschle. “In terms of competence you get to know where your work slots in and above all how your filmmaking skills compare to those of other filmmakers out there.”
Huebschle also maintains that submission to festivals allows African filmmakers to get to know “what kind of commercial or creative success our work is capable of and how we can capitalise on that success with future projects while improving our skills and building a fan base; which is something extremely significant if you wish to have a long and fruitful career in filmmaking.”
Newly returned from Amsterdam and with what seems to be a sea of success in his wake, Huebschle remains driven. “Recognition is always awesome, but I never let it go to my head. This just means I have to carry on working the way I do, improve my skills even further, so that the bigger festivals notice me – and even when they do, it still will mean the exact same thing: recognized, awarded, and now carry on with the work.”
A self-confessed slave to the cinema to the last, one can’t help but wish this flourishing filmo all of the best as he persistently proves he is a celluloid cut above the rest.