Shirley Adams wins three DIFF awards


First-time filmmaker Oliver Hermanus scooped Best South African Feature Film and Best First Feature Film at the Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) for his film Shirley Adams. Denise Newman picked up the Best Actress Award for her lead role in the film.

The landmark 30th edition of DIFF closed on 2 August with the announcement that the Taiwanese film, No Puedo Vivir Sin Ti was judged the Best Feature Film of the festival. Directed by Leon Dai, the film was described by the International Jury as a “film that surprises and charms at the same time. It is a real story with the feel of a melodrama. It is new and original but creates the impression that it was already in your heart for a long time.”

Describing Shirley Adams a South African masterpiece, the jury commented: “Through a meticulously observed minimalism, the film tackles numerous relevant social issues with both subtlety and a mature sensitivity. Its themes of love, human endurance, and forgiveness are universal, and give it audience appeal both locally and abroad.”

They continued: “Shirley Adams is a special movie in which the director takes a number of risks. Moving his camera around as if it was an extra character in the story, he follows his main actress ceaselessly. The result is a powerful movie with great emotions that works all the more since the emotions mostly stay beneath the surface. And these emotions are definitely felt by the viewer.”

Best Director was awarded to Philippe Lioret for Welcome (France). “Lioret has made a remarkable film about the brutal and tragic reality of immigration. The gamut of human experiences and emotions are represented through his excellent direction of his actors Vincent Lindon and Firat Ayverdi,” the Jury said.

The Documentary Film Jury picked two music-themed films for Best Documentary and Best South African Documentary. Intangible Asset No 82 (Australia/Japan) by Emma Franz, was awarded Best Documentary. The jury commented: “In her directorial debut, which explores the journey of a jazz drummer determined to meet a shaman and grandmaster musician, Emma Franz connects with two very different worlds in such an imaginative and compelling way that deepens our appreciation of diverse cultural forms and shows us how we can become immeasurably enriched when we open up ourselves to different cultural experiences.”

The Best South African Documentary was awarded to The Silver Fez, directed by Lloyd Ross, for its “fascinating depiction of a duel between two men from opposite ends of the social spectrum as they compete for a coveted music trophy.” “Having gained the trust of the two competing factions, the director and his camera captures all the textures of this battle – its impact on individuals, families and community. Within the beautiful melodies and musical refrains lurks a tale of unfulfilled dreams, passion, pride and revenge.”

The Short Film Jury awarded Best Short Film to A Better Life (Spain), directed by Luis Fernandez Reneo, a tale of immigrant smuggling on the USA-Mexico border, praising  its authenticity, fantastic acting by its child stars and a story, which despite its locale, resonated with African viewers.

The Best South African Short Film was awarded to Coming Home, directed by Bobby Heaney, starring television actor Hlomla Dandala and based on a story by young writer/actress Amber Jay van Rooyen. The jury called the film “touching, with a deep, sincere story and a strong message of personal strength.”  

The rest of the awards include:

Best Actor: Firat Ayverdi in Welcome (France)
“…his first appearance on screen is amazing and so is his intelligence, professionalism and interplay with the great actor Vincent Lindon.”

Best Cinematography: Ole Bratt Birkeland for Helen (UK/Ireland)
“…for sheer photographic excellence and unforgettable visual expression and beauty…”

Best Screenplay: Ruwanthie De Chickera and Uberto Pasolini for Machan (Germany/Italy/Sri Lanka)
“for capturing the true essence of family, love, desperation and the longing for a better life. The story is humorous leaving the viewer feeling happy and positive, and the relationships portrayed were real and touching.”

Special Jury Mention: To the child actors of My Secret Sky (Izulu Lami) (South Africa), directed by Madoda Mcayiyana

Special Mention Documentary: Sea Point Days (South Africa), directed by Francois Verster and Nollywood Babylon (Canada), directed by Ben Addelman and Samir Mallal.

Special Mention Short Film: Miss Sgodiphola (South Africa), directed by Andy “The Admiral” Kasrils

Wavescapes Surf Film Festival Audience Award: Surfica Musica (Australia), directed by Mick Sowry …… a melodic surfing documentary that resonates with the spiritual duet between a violin virtuoso and surfing provocateur as they embark upon a
radical experiment to explore creative expression.

Amnesty International Durban Human Rights Award: Rough Aunties (United Kingdom/South Africa), directed by Kim Longinotto
“This affecting documentary is about an Amanzimtoti-based NGO, Operation Bobbi Bear and its small group of remarkable workers, mostly women, who battle to rescue and rehabilitate young victims of abuse and courageously pursue the perpetrators to bring them to justice. This film is expertly constructed from intimate footage of the different environments people live in, and the things that they say or struggle to say, resulting in a movie that is both authentic and compelling.”

The International Jury comprised filmmakers Tunde Kelani (Nigeria) and Cheick Oumar Sissoko (Mali), actress Rosie Tebogo Motene (South Africa) and Gert Jan Zuilhof (The Netherlands), programmer at International Film Festival Rotterdam

Best South African Feature Film Jury
Darren Murray, filmmaker; Nathi Gumede, Curator, Kizo Art Gallery

Documentaries Jury
Val Adamson, photographer; Junaid Ahmed, filmmaker; Zandile Tembe, Ukhozi FM  

Short Film Jury
Omelga Mthiyane, O Films; Jeff Rice, SB Productions; Jerry Pooe, Department of Arts, Culture and Sports KZN

Amnesty International Durban Human rights Award Jury
Nonhlanhla Mkhize, Director, Durban Gay and Lesbian Centre; David Spurrett, Philosophy Department, UKZN; Coral Vinsen, Amnesty International Durban
Poonitha Naidoo, Amnesty International Durban
The Best Feature Film award carries a cash prize of R30 000. Cash prizes of R10 000 are also awarded to the winners of the Best South African Feature Film and Best First Feature Film.

See September issue of Screen Africa for articles on Shirley Adams and Intangible Asset No 82.


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