Film Review: The Himbas are Shooting!

You may never have heard of what a “Himba” is, but after seeing this film, you’ll never forget.

The Himbas are a people living in northern Namibia in the traditional way they have for millennia, distinctive for their long red hair plaits and reddish-tinged skin, colored by otjize, a mixture of butter fat and ochre.  The people themselves have become a popular tourist destination, as well as the subject of films and documentaries.  French filmmaker Sollenn Bardet, who spent her childhood with the Himba people, returned to visit the region in adulthood and shared some of the documentaries others had made about them.  This prompted a group of 21 Himbas to ask Bardet to help them make a film about themselves, in order to correct what they felt had been misportrayals by foreign filmmakers.  The result was “The Himbas are Shooting” (Les Himbas Font Leur Cinema).

This wonderful 52-minute film was recently aired over multiple showings at the Franco-Namibian Cultural Center in Windhoek, and we were fortunate to be able to purchase an English language copy (it makes a good Christmas gift as well for the folks back home).  It’s a charming and humorous look at the Himba people as we rarely see them (if ever) anywhere else.  It’s especially fascinating to observe the junction where our “modern” world intersects with that of the Himba – clearly they are aware that it’s possible to adopt “modern” ways, but most appear to have little interest in doing so, and this film helps us see why.  We can also hear from the Himba themselves about some of the negative impact modern society has on their way of life.

The film is available from the Association Kovahimba, at kovahimba@gmail.com.  Every DVD bought through them results in 9 euros being donated to the communities in the film.  As far as I know, it’s only available in PAL – but in today’s computers and flat-screen TVs, the PAL/NTSC distinction has become largely irrelevant.

Below is the film’s trailer, and below that, a short clip in which the Himba try and portray how they are typically treated by visiting tourists.  It’s a hilarious clip but rest assured there is much more good stuff on the DVD.

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