Review: 'Kapana' a Vivid Tale...Also a PSA

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Friday October 15, 2021

'Kapana'  (Source:Outfest 2021)

The hour-long feature "Kapana" is titled after a kind of grilled meat sold by food stand vendors in Namibia.

But director Philippe Talavera, working from a script by Senga Brockerhoff and Mikiros Garoes, isn't just telling a story of "street meat" in this film about an out gay man and the closeted man he picks up at a bar one night; he's exploring parallel threads of self-limiting shame and looking at how Namibia's anti-gay laws and society force LGTBQs into lives that are far harder than they have to be.

Simeon (Simon Hanga) is hanging out with his friends one night, engaging in casually homophobic banter and talking about soccer, when he notices George (Adriano Visagie). The two share a drink, go home together, and - that's that, as far as Simeon is concerned. His attitude is that sleeping with men doesn't make him gay, and a relationship is out of the question.

For George, it's a little different. He's interested in pursuing something more, despite Simeon's borderline-hostile attitude toward him after their hookup. George mounts a charm campaign that includes stopping by Simeon's kapana stand every day for lunch and bringing his friends from the office along with him.

Eventually, Simeon's reluctance melts and he and George start seeing each other, though it stays on the down low. When George's annoying younger brother, Gerald (Chanwill Vries, delivering a charmingly comedic performance) stumbles onto their secret, all of George's family - including his mother (Felicity Celento) and aunt (Elize de Wee) - make a point of welcoming Simeon and making him feel at home.

Secrets are anathema to relationships, and familiar cracks start to show up in the bond the men share when Simeon insists on keeping the relationship a closely-guarded secret - a carefully-maintained omission from the people in his own life that Simeon conveniently overlooks when he realizes that George, too, has something he's been unwilling to reveal.

Talavera populates the film with deftly-drawn characters (a few of whom are somewhat one-dimensional, but well deployed). Just as deft is his inventive use of editing techniques to signal the emotions and mental states of his leads, particularly in a scene in which Simeon, fantasizing about George, repeatedly replaces a hookup with George's imaginary presence.

The film does veer into PSA territory toward the end, but that can be forgiven; "Kapana" is a lively and vivid thumbnail portrait of LGBTQ life in a country that criminalizes people for nothing more than their innate sexuality.

"Kapana" plays at the Seattle Queer Film Festival.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.