31 MILLION REASONS
By John Barker, South Africa
Bollywood meets South African cinema in this stylish, pacy film about a corrupt cop who, desperate to clean up his act, is given the opportunity to go legit by doing one last job. Set in Durban’s Indian community, 31 Millions Reasons was inspired by a massive heist that took place in 1997, for which 14 people were arrested. World Premiere. Filmmaker in attendance
By Kaushik Mukherjee, India
Gandu – whose self-adopted nickname means asshole – is an angry and aimless young man who finds meaning only in freestyle rap and beatboxing. When Gandu meets a Bruce Lee-obsessed rickshaw driver named Ricksha, they descend into a rap-infused world of sex, drugs and darkness. Filmmaker in attendance
By Paula van der Oest, Germany, The Netherlands, South Africa
Black Butterflies tells the story of the life of South African poet Ingrid Jonker, her love affairs, complex relationships with her father and country, and her suicide in 1965. With an award-winning performance from Dutch actress Carice van Houten as Jonker, the film is a tribute to the power of her words and the contradictory nature of human existence. Filmmaker in attendance
By Maryam Keshavarz, Iran, Lebanon, United States
This exquisitely rendered study of the links between sexuality, modernity and tradition in modern-day Tehran is a striking and moving debut by Maryam Keshavarz. Sixteen-year-old Atafeh, the daughter of a wealthy liberal family, and Shireen, her best friend whose deceased parents were anti-government activists, have a closeness that is forbidden in Iran.
By Andrey Zvyagintsev, Russia
This third masterpiece from director Andrei Zvyagintsev (The Return, The Banishment, both of which played at DIFF) tells the story of Elena, a middle-aged wife and mother who has remarried a wealthy new husband, who decides to write a new will and leave nearly everything to his spoilt daughter. Elena was the winner of a special jury prize in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes this year.
ELITE SQUAD 2 – THE ENEMY WITHIN (TROPA DE ELITE 2 – O INIMIGO AGORA E OUTRO)
By Jose Padilha, Brazil
A box office hit in Brazil, the action-filled Elite Squad 2 tells of Nascimento, the leader of a military police unit in Rio de Janeiro. After he mismanages a prison riot, Nascimento is reassigned to an intelligence post where he uncovers a massive web of corruption leading to the highest levels of government.
THE FIRST GRADER
By Justin Chadwick, United Kingdom, South Africa, Kenya
This moving and uplifting drama tells the true story of Maruge, an 84-year-old Kenyan villager and former freedom fighter who fights for his right to go to school for the first time to get the education he could never afford. Maruge ends up joining a class of six-year-olds. Filmmaker in attendance
HOW TO STEAL 2 MILLION
By Charlie Vundla, South Africa
This engaging debut feature from young South African director, Charlie Vundla, follows an ex-con named Jack, who desperately wants to go straight but is presented with an opportunity for a job with a R2m take. The cast includes Menzi Ngubane, Rapulana Seiphemo, Terry Pheto, Hlubi Mboya and John Kani. World Premiere. Filmmaker in attendance
By Denis Villeneuve, Canada,
This provocative Oscar-nominated Canadian film follows a twin brother and sister in their quest to uncover the truth about their family history. Following the death of their mother, Jeanne and Simon learn that their absentee father is still alive, and that they have a brother they have never met. The two travel to the Middle East to unravel the tangled strands of their mysterious past.
NADER AND SIMIN, A SEPARATION (JODAEIYE NADER AZ SIMIN)
By Asghar Farhadi, Iran, 2011
This beautifully made film traces the breakup of an Iranian family set against the political tensions of life in contemporary Tehran. Nader and Simin have decided to get divorced, ostensibly because Simin wants to emigrate overseas to ensure a better future for their daughter. While not overtly political, the film is starkly critical of life in Iran, particularly the massive class divide. Winner of the Golden Bear at Berlin this year. Filmmaker in attendance
By Andrew Dosunmu, Nigeria, United States
Restless City tells the story of Djibril, a young Senegalese immigrant and musician struggling to survive on the margins of New York City. When Djibril falls in love with a prostitute who works for a local small-time loan shark, his previously aimless existence is suddenly given fresh purpose and he is forced to make some difficult decisions. Filmmaker in attendance
By Mukunda Michael Dewil, South Africa
This impressive first film from young South African director, Mukunda Michael Dewil, tells the story of a retired judge who is sent by his editor to write his memoirs in an isolated cabin in the wilderness, where he encounters a lost hiker. With great performances from Jeremy Crutchley and Joe Mafela, Retribution is a terse thriller. Filmmaker in attendance
By Oliver Hermanus, France, South Africa
This is is the second outing from young South African director Oliver Hermanus, whose Shirley Adams was a DIFF 2009 highlight. Skoonheid tells the story of a closeted married man who finds himself deeply attracted to the handsome adult son of old family friends. This beautifully controlled film took the Queer Palm award at Cannes this year for the best film dealing with gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender issues. Filmmaker in attendance
By Damir Radonic, South Africa
Kabelo owns and captains a soccer team. With a string of losses, and half the members walking out on him, he feels he’s destroying the team’s legacy. Challenged to a match by an old rival who heads the winning local soccer team, Kabelo’s brother-in-law, Rasta, steps in to help him, but this might not be what he needs. The film features hilarious performances from Kagiso Lediga and Trevor Noah. Filmmaker in attendance
By SJ Clarkson, United Kingdom
Toast is a beautifully modulated account of famous British chef Nigel Slater’s childhood romance with cookery and his ongoing battle for the affection of his father. When his mother dies and his dad begins to takes an interest in Mrs Potter (Helena Bonham Carter), their working-class maid, Nigel finds himself in fierce competition for his father’s loyalty and control of the household’s domestic life.
THE TREE OF LIFE
By Terrence Malick, United States
From American master Terrence Malick comes this gripping drama starring Brad Pitt, Sean Penn and Jessica Chastain. It chronicles the origins and meaning of life as seen from the eyes of a 1950s Texas family growing up in the birth of the space age. Winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes this year.
By Djo Tunda Wa Munga, Congo-Kinshasa, France, Belgium
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, petrol is in extremely short supply – fantastic news for Riva, who has just arrived from Angola with the only shipment of petrol around for miles. Riva starts to live the high life and finds himself attracted to a mysterious woman with links to a local gangster. This sexy action drama signals a brave new direction for African cinema.
Filmmaker in attendance