Human rights film festival


The curators of the Tri Continental Film Festival (TCFF), which takes place at Ster-Kinekor and Cinema Nouveau cinemas in September, viewed over 500 entries before deciding on the final programme.

TCFF is South Africa’s only dedicated human rights film event and consists of films that promote democratisation, deepen understanding, and afford those marginalised a substantive voice, proving to be more vital than ever in our rapidly changing world.

The festival has played a significant role in creating a sustainable and continually growing audience for social justice cinema over the past nine years, through film selection that is nuanced, relevant, informative and well-balanced, and promises to continue this tradition in 2011, with a programme that reflects global currents of change and action.

Films on the programme speak directly to the pressing concerns of our world and the power of documentary and fiction to relay these concerns in a compelling and powerful manner.

TCFF is also pleased to present two retrospectives; the outstanding works of Peter Wintonick and a finely crafted selection from documentary icon Werner Herzog is presented in conjunction with The Goethe-Institute Johannesburg.

Says festival director Rehad Desai: “We are proud to present a crop of excellent films which speak directly to this issue and will continue to do so in the coming years so we can play our own small part in building a movement to halt the forward march towards the end of humanity as we know it.’       

The Opening Night film is TAC- Taking HAART, directed by Jack Lewis, who will be in attendance at the Rosebank Cinema Nouveau. Between 1999 and 2010, over two million people in South Africa died of Aids. This was despite the existence of Highly Active Antiretroviral Treatment, known as HAART. During these years, government sponsored Aids denialism combined with the high price of these life saving drugs, ensured that poor people could not get the treatment they needed. TAC – Taking HAART provides a fly on the wall view of how outrage ignited a movement that united people across ethnicity and class.

TCFF will screen several climate films such as There Was Once An Island directed by Briar March. Takuu atoll, also known as “The Mortlocks’, is a circular group of coral islands 250km north-east of Bougainville in Papua, New Guinea. A Polynesian community of 400 lives on Nukutoa, the atoll’s only inhabited island. For the first time the sea levels are rising and they are experiencing some of the first effects of climate change. Since 2006 Briar March and her crew have followed Satty, Endar and Teloo – three inhabitants of the island whose way of life and unique culture are threatened by the encroaching ocean. 

The Pipe is directed by Risteard Ó Domhnaill. In a remote corner of the west coast of Ireland sits the picturesque Broadhaven Bay. However, this tranquil image belies the turmoil beneath, and the unique nature of this coastline, which has sustained generations of farmers and fishermen, has made it a target for Shell Oil as the point of landfall for its new Corrib Gas Pipeline.

H2Oil is directed by Shannon Walsh, who will be in attendance in Johannesburg. Ever wonder where America gets most of its oil? If you thought it was Saudi Arabia or Iraq you are wrong. America’s biggest oil supplier has quickly become Canada’s oil sands. Located in the Western Canadian region of Alberta, under pristine boreal forests, the process of oil sands extraction uses up to four barrels of fresh water to produce only one barrel of crude oil. The used water, laden with carcinogens, is dumped into leaky tailing ponds. Downstream, the people are already paying the price for what will be one of the largest industrial projects in history. When a local doctor raises the alarm about clusters of rare cancers, evidence mounts for industry and government cover-ups.

Into Eternity is directed by Michael Madsen. On the far west coast of Finland, adjacent to the country’s Olkiluoto nuclear power plant, lies a 4km-deep burial chamber of almost surreal dimensions and purpose: carved out of the Finnish bedrock, “Onkalo Waste Repository’ – the name means “hiding place’ – is being constructed as a tomb for all of that country’s nuclear waste for the next 100,000 years. This disturbingly stylish and quietly haunting documentary, explores a range of questions that nuclear energy raises about responsibility, time and memory.

Age of Stupid is directed by Franny Armstrong and  stars Pete Postlethwaite as a man living in the devastated future world of 2055, looking at old footage and asking: why didn’t we stop climate change when we had the chance? The production is notable for its innovative crowd-funding financing model, as well as the Indie Screenings distribution system, which allows anyone anywhere to screen the film. After the film’s release in 2009 The Age of Stupid became one of the most talked-about films of the year. It also spawned the hugely successful 10:10 campaign.

In an immensely moving documentary by a filmmaker known only as Patrick, Green follows the final days of a female orangutan of that name. The film is a visual ride that takes us into the beauty and bio-diversity of Green’s natural environment while also showing us the devastating destruction taking place as her forest is raided to provide products we use routinely in our homes. As these and other tropical forests are plundered for palm oil, tropical hardwoods and paper, this movie calls on viewers to think about and change their consumption habits and not to support environmentally unsustainable goods and industries.

South African directors at TCFF include: Shannon Walsh – H2Oil; Eddie Edwards – Once Upon A Day: Brenda Fassie; Peter Goldsmid & Zanele Muholi – Difficult Love; Femi Odugbemi – Bariga Boy (JHB only); David Valivedoo – Voices From The Cape; Ramadan Suleman – Zwelidumile (JHB only); Angela Ramirez, Callum Macnaughton, Sara Gouveia – Mama Goema; Peter Wintonick (JHB only); Rumbi Katedza – The Axe & The Tree; Ingrid Martens  – Africa Shafted-Under One Roof (JHB only); Simon Bright – Robert Mugabe, What Happened?; Jezza Neumann (Xoliswa Sithole)  – Zimbabwe’s Forgotten Children  (JHB only);  Khalid Shamis – Imam & I (JHB and CPT); Karen Waltorp, Christian Vium – Manenberg (CPT only); Tim Wege – King Naki; and Marius van Niekerk – My Heart Of Darkness (JHB and CPT).

TCFF will be screened at the following Ster-Kinekor venues:

•             Cinema Nouveau Rosebank 8 to 18 September 2011
•             Ster–Kinekor Maponya Mall 9 to 14 September 2011
•             Cinema Nouveau V&A Waterfront 8 to 18 September 2011
•             Cinema Nouveau Brooklyn Mall 8 to 18 September 2011


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