SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE…The 32nd edition of the Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) opened on Thursday night 21 July at the Suncoast Supernova cinema in Durban with the world premiere screening of local film Otelo Burning.
Director Sara Blecher’s film tells the story of a group of township kids living in Lamontville just outside Durban who use surfing as a way to taste freedom in the time leading up to Nelson Mandela’s release from prison in 1990.
The audience reacted to the film with cheers and clapping, and audience members remarked on the strong performances by the young actors and the beautiful cinematography.
Festival manager Nashen Moodley introduced the film by saying that he and festival director Peter Rorvik saw the film and “really liked it very much’, but they were told it would be impossible to get it ready before DIFF. However, the Otelo Burning team worked extremely hard to get the film finished in time for its opening night premiere.
Blecher confirmed that the film had only been finished the previous day, but said that after seven years of working on the film, she wouldn’t want it to premiere anywhere else than the Durban International Film Festival. “This film is in a sense a love letter to Durban,’ she added.
Otelo Burning was written through a workshop process in Lamontville, and is based on the true story of a swimming pool in the township that survived the ravages of gangs and apartheid to produce all the Zulu lifeguards on the Durban beachfront.
“I feel like I’m part of a very important movement,’ said Blecher. “It feels like we’re telling a whole new generation of stories and I feel privileged to be part of it.’
In opening the festival DIFF director Peter Rorvik said that more than 60 fresh South African productions, including feature films, documentaries and short films, will screen at the festival.
“This is really something to be proud of,’ he added.
Rorvik emphasised that freedom of expression is a prerequisite for creativity, and dedicated the festival to free-speaking artists worldwide: “Artists play a key role in raising their voices against injustice and intolerance, and festivals like these are an important platform for this to happen.’