Features at DIFF 2014


An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker
Bosnia and Herzegovina | France | Slovenia | Italy

Academy Award-winning writer-director Danis Tanovic returns to his
documentary roots in this stark offering, in which a cast of amateur actors
recreate an incident of discrimination from their own lives.
Awarded the Grand Jury Prize at Berlin this year, the film, framed against the
bleak winter landscape of poverty-stricken rural Bosnia-Herzegovina, follows
Roma couple Nazif and Senada as they eke out a tenuous existence. Grimly
authentic, the film is an unwavering, unembroidered record of the harsh reality
on the precarious margins of poverty.

Bloody Beans

Narimane Mari’s Bloody Beans obliquely alludes to the Algerian War of
Independence refracted into shadow through the eyes of young children. On a
brilliantly lit beach, set against the backdrop of war, a group of children play
their days away. Tired of their staple meal of red beans, and hearing rumours of
exotic food stored at the French barracks, the children decide to go to war
themselves. With their faces painted, and full of feral energy, they conduct a raid
on the barracks.
With atmospheric use of light and shade, and a soundtrack that is liltingly
ominous, this compelling film combines playfulness with the machinations of war
to create a world that is both make-believe and urgently real, filtered through
the dream-like possibilities of childhood.


Filmed over a 12-year period, veteran filmmaker Richard Linklater’s latest
offering is a humanist epic of great poignancy and power. It follows the life –
from age five to 18 – of a young boy named Mason (Ellar Coltrane) as he goes
about the bittersweet business of growing up.
Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette offer substantial performances as Mason’s
parents, as does the director’s daughter, Lorelei Linklater, who plays Mason’s
sister. But it is Mason himself who anchors the film and whose real-time aging is
strange and fascinating to watch. Boyhood is a remarkable piece of cinema
which, as it plays out under the camera’s unfaltering eye, reminds us of the
gravity of a life, no matter how ordinary.

Cold Harbour
South Africa

When a seasonal south-easterly storm washes up the mutilated body of a
Chinese man on a Cape Town beach, it represents an opportunity for township
cop Sizwe Miya to prove himself and earn the promotion he desperately needs.
His boss and mentor, Venske, gives Sizwe the case but assigns a rookie cop,
Legama, to keep an eye on him. When Sizwe discovers that the homicide is
linked to Chinese mafia smuggling abalone, a beautiful Chinese shipping
executive named Soong Mei tries to seduce him into giving her information about
the case.
In a world where self-interest and corruption have overtaken personal loyalty
and civil duty, Sizwe is left with no-one to trust. This gripping and engaging
thriller comes from the assured directorial hand of Carey MacKenzie and is
produced by Tendeka Matatu.

Hard to Get
South Africa

This luminous debut from South African writer-director Zee Ntuli tells of a
handsome young womaniser with trust issues named TK (Israel Makoe) who is
thrust into Joburg’s underworld when he falls for Skiets (Thishiwe Ziqubu), a
beautiful, reckless young woman who earns her living as a petty criminal. But If
TK is to have any chance with her, he will have to survive a gauntlet of
dangerous undertakings.
When TK’s life is threatened by an admirer of Skiets, he has to trust her for his
own survival. Produced by Junaid Ahmed and Helena Spring, Hard to Get is a an
action-fueled love story overflowing with visual poetry and promises great
things to come from Ntuli.

Joe Bullet
South Africa

Joe Bullet tells the story of a mysterious gangster who starts sabotaging soccer
team, The Eagles’ chance at winning the upcoming championship final. In the
criminal underworld of soccer, only Joe Bullet can save the championship.
Produced in 1971, Joe Bullet was one of the first South African films featuring an
all-African cast, and starred Ken Gampu, one of the first black South African
actors to appear in Hollywood films. The film was independently released in
1973 in the Eyethu cinema in Soweto, but, after only two screenings, was
banned by the apartheid government.
The film was later unbanned but never released. Now, after more than 40 years,
the film has been digitally restored and is finally available for worldwide release,
courtesy of the Gravel Road project which aims to restore many of the films that
have been lost in the dusty archives of apartheid.

Love is Strange
USA | France

After 39 years together, painter Ben (John Lithgow) and music teacher George
(Alfred Molina) formalise their relationship by getting married. But when the
archdiocese of the Catholic school where George teaches finds out about the
wedding, he is fired and forced to sell their New York apartment, and the couple
are temporarily separated.
George moves in with the gay couple next door and Ben moves to Brooklyn to
stay with his nephew Eliot (Darren Burrows), Eliot’s wife Kate (Marisa Tomei)
and their teenage son. This latest offering from indie darling Ira Sachs is given
weight by wonderful central performances from Lithgow and Molina, whose
portrayal of the long-standing relationship is warmly and authentically wrought.


Set in the West Bank, Hany Abu-Assad’s tense political thriller, nominated for
this year’s best foreign language Oscar, uses the conflicted ground – both actual
and psychological – of the occupied territories to remarkable atmospheric effect.

In order to visit his childhood friends and the young woman, Nadia, with whom
he is tentatively in love, Omar, a young Palestinian, must scale the imposing wall
– a concrete visual metaphor anchoring the film – that divides his community.
But when he is caught by the Israeli security forces, tortured and convinced to
work in their services, Omar returns to a life that is complicated by secrets and

Only Lovers Left Alive
UK | Germany

From much loved maverick indie auteur Jim Jarmusch, comes this coolly elegant
interpretation of the vampire genre. World-weary musician Adam (Tom
Hiddleston) cultivates his long-observed distaste for humanity in an aesthetically
desolate industrial Detroit while his lover Eve (Tilda Swinton) indulges her taste
for books and blood in literary Tangiers.
But when Adam’s existential ennui takes on a serious edge, Eve is drawn to
Detroit. Beneath the film’s effortlessly hip surface and its broken melancholy, lies
an enduring bond that gives these bloodless lovers – and the film – a
transcendent warmth.

The Congress
Israel | Germany | Poland | Luxembourg | France | Belgium

From Ari Folman, the Israeli animator behind the universally acclaimed Waltz
with Bashir, comes another masterful interweaving of live action and animation.

The Congress tells the tale of a Hollywood actress named Robin Wright – played
by actress Robin Wright – who is fast approaching her leading-lady sell-by date.
When the powerful Miramount Studio offers her a lucrative deal in which they
will scan, preserve and subsequently own her image as a character for their sole
use, she finds herself both immortal and consigned to obscurity. The Congress is
an innovative mind-bending experience with surprising emotional heft.

The Lunchbox
India | France | Germany | USA

The Indian tradition of dabbawallas – a food courier system – is the premise of
this charming story set in the teeming streets of Mumbai.
Isolated housewife and young mother Ila worries about her relationship with an
increasingly distant husband and sets out to seduce him through the exotic
ingredients of her delectably prepared meals. But when a specially prepared
lunchbox is delivered to the wrong office worker, ending up on the desk of a
lonely middle-aged widower named Saajan, she finds herself exchanging daily
notes with a stranger, a correspondence which begins as an innocent friendship
but blooms into something deeper as they share their secret thoughts and
wonder about the meaning of life.

White Shadow
Tanzania | Germany | Italy

Winner of Best Debut in Venice, with Ryan Gosling as executive producer, this
stunning feature debut of artist-turned-director, Noaz Deshe, is a nightmarish
vision set in Tanzania.
The film tells of a young albino boy named Alias (Hamisi Basili) who is targeted
by the trade in body parts for muti. In a scene whose dark disorientation and
panic set the tone for the film to follow, Alias watches as his father is murdered
by machete-wielding muti-dealers. To protect him, his mother sends him to the
city with his uncle where he learns to scramble for survival and falls tenderly in
love. But danger lingers, and Alias finds himself once again pursued by a terrible

Wish I Was Here

While his 2004 hit debut Garden State explored the anxieties of millennial
twenty-somethings, Zach Braff’s latest film Wish I Was Here feels something like
a sequel, exploring the mid-thirties crisis of Aiden (Braff) as he tries to balance a
meaningful life with a responsible one. But when his father, a conservative
Jewish man who is paying for Aiden’s two children to attend a prestigious
school, falls ill and cannot afford the extra expense, Aiden is forced to take on a
home-schooling role and, in the process, finds the fresh meaning that he has
been searching for.


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