The learned man often says that ignorance is bliss however tirelessly tries to emancipate those he feels are ignorant of their bliss.
One of Joel Haikali’s earlier films, My father’s son, centres around this premise. The 2010 film follows the return of proverbial prodigal son, however unlike the one from the Bible, he does not return humbled but on a mission to save his brother primitive village life.
Ngilifa (Panduleni Hailundu) has been estranged from his family for about 21 years since he left for Windhoek in search for a better future.
After being diagnosed with cancer, which the storylines alludes to as being terminal, he and his coloured wife Charmaine (Senga Brockerhoff) decide to visit his family in the village. The trip is not only aimed at re-uniting him with his family but also making peace with his young brother Hangula (Patrick Haingono), who he abandoned those many years ago.
Needless to say, the trip is not as smooth sailing as the eldest of the brothers would have hoped. The journey is packed tension, awkward moments and of course melodrama here and there.
Having seen award-winning films like Try by Hailkali, the picture quality for this film is uncharacteristically unimpressive and bothersome when one first starts watching it. This is not the quality we have come to associate with the young film maker, however it’s excusable because it is one of his earlier films.
The sound quality is not too shabby and the multiple camera angles give it an air of professionalism one would not expect from a young film maker.
Certain aspects of the storyline actually highlight how ignorant, uneducated people react to certain things, an a example is how his family concludes that he does not have cancer and is in fact suffering from AIDS because both and his wife are thin.
However it also makes village people seem somewhat primitive in how they settle disputes, or how Hangula always brandishes traditional weapons and chares blindly into fights.
The melodrama is blinding at times but does not take away from the storyline which is a good thing because one can just laugh them off as comical moments.
What stands out about the storyline is that it tries to highlight real issues that are often at the centre of societal discourse. Issues about the impact of urbanisation, the importance of education, land disputes and preserving tradition and culture are featured in the film.
Most importantly it highlights how people often separate themselves from their loved ones because of their own fears. The film gives an insight into the discord that occurs when two people think they are right. It is about how the urbanised person thinks their views are right, and how the village person thinks their views are right.
Judging Haikali from his other works, I wouldn’t go as far as saying My father’s son is a rotten tomato, nor would I say it’s a brilliant piece of work, it sits on the fence.
However you can be your judge on 9 September at the Franco-Namibian Cultural Centre (FNCC) at 18h30 for N$30. The showing of the film which premiered in 2010 is courtesy of AfricAvenir and the FNCC.