African films at DIFF


This year’s landmark 30th edition of the Durban International Film Festival (DIFF), which runs from 23 July to 2 August, will present a total of 77 African films, comprising nine feature films, 28 documentaries and 49 short films. Despite challenges in respect of financing and audience interest for African cinema, a stream of well crafted films continue to get made on the continent, and DIFF is a valued showcase for a selection of such films.

The festival opens with the South African premiere of internationally acclaimed Durban-made feature My Secret Sky (Izulu Lami) directed by Madoda Ncayiyana, a moving tale of two orphaned rural children and their adventures on the streets of Durban.

Other South African films premiering at the festival include Oliver Hermanus’ striking feature film debut, Shirley Adams, the Durban romantic comedy For Better For Worse by Naresh Veeran, the Xhosa feature Intonga by JJ Van Rensburg, and Long Street, a second offering from Revel Fox, director of The Flyer.

Savo Tufegdzic’s controversial first feature Crime – It’s a way of Life is an unflinching portrait of the psychology of crime in South Africa. Steve Jacobs’ Disgrace is an Australian production of the adaptation of JM Coetzee’s Booker Prize winning novel, and stars John Malkovich with Durban actress Jessica Haines. Anthony Fabian’s Skin is a South African-UK co-production based on a true story about Sandra Laing who was born to a white family during apartheid, but happened to be black. White Lion is an exquisitely shot story about an albino lion cub rejected by his pride yet revered by the Shangaan tribe, and is great family viewing. Another film suitable for children is The Seven of Daran – The Battle of Pareo Rock, a Dutch production directed by Lourens Blok, shot in South Africa, about two children’s adventures with a mythical giraffe.

Also in the African contingent of feature films this year is The Absence, Mama Këita’s thought-provoking film on the brain-drain of African skills and knowledge, particularly to Europe; African Movie Academy Awards winner for Best Nigerian Feature Film Tunde Kelani’s Arugba; as well as the thrilling From a Whisper from Kenya’s Wanuri Kahiu.

In addition to these feature films, the selection of African documentaries includes Sundance Award winning Kim Longinotto’s Rough Aunties , a revealing insight into the dramas of an Amanzimtoti organisation who help abused children, Zola Maseko’s The Manuscripts of Timbuktu about Africa’s great ancient centre of learning , and Malian director Cherif Keita’s well researched unfolding of the connections between ANC founder John Dube and renegade missionaries in Cemetery Stories: A Rebel Mission in South Africa. ISETA- Behind the Roadblock is a personal portrait of lives shattered by the Rwandan genocide; Give Us This Day by Billy Raftery follows the lives of vulnerable children living in the streets of Durban and Charlene Houston’s Babalwa’s Story succinctly paints the picture of the crisis of masculinity in South Africa while championing the resilience of one courageous young woman.

The Foster Brothers (Craig and Damon) have two films in the festival, the world premiere of Ice Man (about Lewis Pugh whose swims in the Arctic and Antarctic Oceans highlight the perils of melting ice-caps) and The Nature of Life which addresses climate change from a unique African perspective. Richard H. Nosworthy’s film Reg Park – The Legend documents the life and times of body-building legend Reg Park; The Silver Fez by Lloyd Ross brilliantly explores the competitive nature of Cape Malay music culture, while Zwelidumile by Ramadan Suleman shows the impact of exile on families left behind through the story of legendary self-exiled artist Dumile Feni. Cameroonian master filmmaker Jean-Marie Teno presents Sacred Places a film on filmmaking, art, African cinema, globalisation, popular culture and business in contemporary Africa. The excellent Yande Codou, The Griot of Senghor introduces us to a remarkable 80-year old singer of polyphonic Sérère poetry, while Canadian production, Nollywood Babylon is a funny, insightful and gripping portrait of the phenomenal Nigerian film industry that delves deep into the lives of the filmmakers and audience in the slums of Lagos. Directed by Ntokozo Mahlalela, Tribes and Clans, a study on tribalism in contemporary South Africa , is bound to spark some serious debate on race and identity.

Long regarded as the foundation of good cinema, the short film form is also well represented by African filmmakers this year, with ground breaking works from emerging and established filmmakers. Festival favourite, director Akin Omotoso returns to DIFF with Jesus and the Giant, an experimental film constructed entirely from over 7,000 digital still images. Michael J Rix, director of South Africa’s first feature length stop frame animation, returns this year with a five-minute film Strings; Waramutseho! by Auguste Bernard Kouemo Yanghu is a Cameroon-Belgium-France co-production that takes a look at the Rwandan genocide from a surprising angle; Voice of Our Forefathers is an M-Net Edit film by KZN local Thomas Hart, while acclaimed Zimbabwean writer/filmmaker Tsitsi Dangarembga offers a musical drama on the scourge of HIV in Zimbabwe called Sharing Day. Not to be missed is the hilarious small town comedy Miss Sgodiphola by Andy “The Admiral” Kasrils; Rwandan Daddy Ruhorahoza’s Lost in the South; Alicia Price’s You’ve Been Terrified, a telling spoof on reality TV that examines our attitudes towards crime and safety, as well Durbanite Akona Matyila’s Ulysses. Also featuring is Coming Home, written by and starring 12 year old Amber-Jay van Rooyen, which has already won international awards.

Short films serve as calling card to the industry for entry level filmmakers and the Durban Short Film Challenge, a project of the Durban Film Society that invited filmmakers to make a five minute film in two weeks on a specific theme, has produced a selection of the top 12 films entered to be screened at a special event of the festival on 30 July at the KZNSA Gallery.

For full programme details visit or telephone the Centre for Creative Arts on 031 260 2506/ 1704.

In a year deeply constrained by funding cutbacks festival organisers the Centre for Creative Arts (UKZN ) highlight the important role played by principal funders the National Film and Video Foundation, Stichting Doen, HIVOS, KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development, German Embassy, Goethe Institute of South Africa, City of Durban, Industrial Development Corporation, with support from East Coast Radio, Durban Film Office, Department of Arts and Culture Film, Video and Sound Archives, French Embassy of South Africa and other valued sponsors and partners.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here