This year, the Durban International Film Festival, the leading event of its kind on the African continent, is once again bringing film lovers and filmmakers from across the globe to the shores of Durban for a feast of the latest and best that cinema has to offer from 19 to 29 July.
In 2018, ahead of a 40th bumper anniversary next year, the festival offers a focused fare of 180 features films, documentaries and shorts, along with an insightful industry programme that includes Isisphethu for emerging and micro-budget filmmakers, the 11th Talents Durban in partnership with Berlinale Talents, for pre-selected and semi-established filmmakers, as well as the co-production and finance forum the 9th Durban FilmMart, the festival’s partner programme with the Durban Film Office.
Opening the festival is the first feature film from South African director Jerome Pikwane, the horror flick The Tokoloshe. The LGBTI love-story Rafiki, directed by Kenyan Wanuri Kahiu, will close the festival.
Manager of DIFF Chipo Zhou, explains the choice of these two diverse films that have women as their focus. “We wanted to book-end DIFF with films that tell stories about women, their strength and their resilience. We also want to showcase the fact that there are many ways to tell these stories from a cinematic point of view,” said Zhou.
“We are in a time of diversity, where women, racial minorities and LGBTI communities who have traditionally been underrepresented in film are having their voices brought to the fore,” says Zhou. “Referencing this global narrative, the films in this year’s festival will reflect these new voices as much as possible.”
Among the features in competition this year are South African films Farewell Ella Bella directed by Lwazi Mvusi, which follows a young woman on a journey to bury her father; High Fantasy directed by Jenna Bass, in which a group of young South Africans have to navigate a personal-political labyrinth when they wake up to discover they have swapped bodies; Sara Blecher’s Mayfair, a gangster film about a father and son; and The Recce by Ferdinand van Zyl, which explores the pain and suffering families endured during and after South Africa’s 20-year border war.
International features in competition include The Tale (USA) directed by Jennifer Fox, which chronicles one woman’s powerful investigation into her own childhood memories as she is forced to re-examine her first sexual experience; Clint (India) by Hari Kumar, which tells the story of prodigious artist child who died before his seventh birthday, leaving behind 25000 pictures; and the closing film Rafiki (Kenya), directed by Wanuri Kahiu, which is set in Nairobi and tells the touching tale of two very different girls who fall in love.
Competition titles in the documentary section include the South African film Silas, a global tale directed by Anjali Nayar and Hawa Essuman which warns of the power of politics and celebrates the capacity of individuals to fight back, and Whispering Truth to Power, directed by human rights lawyer Shameela Seedat, which tracks Thuli Madonsela, South Africa’s first female Public Protector, as she builds her second case against President Jacob Zuma.
International documentaries in competition include New Moon (Kenya), directed by Phillippa Ndisi-Herrmann, who explores her journey to Sufi Islam; Amal (Lebanon, Egypt, France, Germany, Norway, Denmark), directed by Mohamed Siam, which follows a teenager as she comes to terms with her identity and sexuality in a post-revolutionary police state; Shakedown (USA) directed by Leilah Weinraub, which chronicles explicit performances in an underground queer club in Los Angeles; and The State Against Nelson Mandela and the Others (France) by Nicolas Champeaux and Gilles Porte, which offers archival recordings that include Mandela’s co-accused at the Rivonia Treason Trial hearings, and which transports the audience back into the courtroom battles.
Other South African films on the billing include Durban filmmaker Michael Cross’ award-winning The Fun’s Not Over, about the life of musician James Philips, and Eubulus Timothy’s warm, coming-of-age surf love story Deepend. Sisters of the Wilderness is Karin Slater’s inspiring film which is set in the iMfolozi Wilderness and follows five young Zulu women on a journey of self-discovery. Then there is Oscar-nominated director Darrel Roodt’s horror Siembamba,Stephina Zwane’s comedy Baby Mamas, which revolves around the daily lives and loves of four women and their own real-life baby mama drama, Leli Maki’s comedy Table Manners, in which a wife and mother finds solace and hope in cooking, learning that all she needs is life’s three courses – family, food and love.
Prior to each screening, public service announcements will be shown. These are themed around an industry campaign #thatsnotok created by SWIFT (Sisters Working in Film and Television), the SA-based non-profit that works to protect and advance the cause of women in the industry.
In 2018 DIFF continues its endeavours to grow cinema audiences and this year free community-based screenings will take place at Solomon Mahlangu Hall (New Germany/Clermont), KwaMashu Fan Park, Umlazi W Section Library and The Workshop Amphitheatre. Other screenings take place at Community ZA (formerly Artspace Gallery in Umgeni) and KZNSA Gallery, Musgrave Ster Kinekor, Suncoast Cine Centre and Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, as well as Ushaka Marine World, where the popular free ocean-focused film festival Wavescapes will take place in the public area.
“With about 400 film-makers in attendance, the public can look forward to a feast of film and some fascinating insights into the world of cinema,” concludes Zhou.
The DIFF is organised by the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Centre for Creative Arts in partnership with the eThekwini Municipality, KwaZulu-Natal Film Commission, National Film and Video Foundation, Durban Film Office and other valuable partners.
DIFF opens at The Playhouse on 19 July and runs until 29 July. The closing film will be screened on 28 July, after the competition awards.
For more information visit the DIFF website or any one of DIFF’s social media pages.