Charles Burnett’s "Namibia: The Struggle for Liberation," about the country’s decades-long fight for independence from apartheid-ruled South Africa, would make for a great PBS or HBO miniseries. Burnett, an efficient filmmaker with any budget, does his best to thoroughly tell the story of Samuel Nujoma (Carl Lumbly, in an impressively moderated performance), Namibia’s first president and the founder of the SWAPO political movement, along with the many others instrumental to the cause, but simply can’t fit the density of material into a 161-minute film. Unlike a lot of directors (not to mention politicians) Burnett nobly refuses to stick with a “good guys fight—beat bad guys—mission accomplished” scenario. He’s not afraid to get inside the messiness of international and national political games, the covert collaborators who can make the road to independence a journey of two-steps forward, one-step back. Even as Burnett moves swiftly from scene to scene, the mind wanders to what was left on the cutting room floor. "Namibia: The Struggle for Liberation" is a novel unfairly forced to fit the template of a poem.
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