The ever-expanding African film industry will once more be represented at the Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) 2014 although South African film retains the festival’s key focus, with 40 feature-length films and 38 short films – most of them receiving their world premieres on Durban screens, and collectively representing by far the largest number of South African films in the festival’s 35 year history.
This year’s opening night film on July 17 see the world premiere of “Hard To Get,” the electrifying feature debut from South African filmmaker Zee Ntuli, who has already received critical acclaim for his short films. The story of the mercurial relationship between a handsome young womanizer and a beautiful, reckless petty criminal, “Hard To Get” is fueled by a bewitching visual poetry. Other high-profile South African films being showcased include the engaging thriller “Cold Harbour,” “Between Friends,” which recounts a reunion between old varsity friends, “Hear Me Move,” a locally flavored dance movie, and “Love the One You Love,” which explores a constellation of relationships between young South Africans.
Then there’s the Tyler Perry-flavored “Two Choices,” as well as “The Two of Us,” which tells of a relationship between two siblings. “Icehorse” is a surreal mystery drama set in the Netherlands and directed by South African Elan Gamaker. “Young Ones” is a dystopian down-beat sci-fi flick directed by Jake Paltrow, produced by Spier Films and shot in South Africa, while the French/South African co-production “Zulu” explores the unhealed wounds of the new South Africa. DIFF is very proud to present the 1973 film “Joe Bullet,” the first work to benefit from the Gravel Road legacy project, which aims to restore films lost in the dusty archives of apartheid.
This year’s program also features an expanded South African documentary program in response to the large number of high quality doccies currently being produced in the country. DIFF 2014 includes a rich slate of films which explore and interrogate 20 years of freedom and democracy in South Africa, including Khalo Matabane’s “Nelson Mandela: The Myth and Me,” and “Miners Shot Down,” Rehad Desai’s devastating account of Marikana. They are joined by many other films that chronicle lesser known but no less significant stories behind the end of apartheid and the rebirth of South Africa into a new country.
The rich program of films from elsewhere on the continent includes a number of artistically and politically brave directorial voices that are unafraid to experiment with form or content. The bewitching and highly experimental “Bloody Beans” recounts the Algerian revolution using a band of young children as its medium of expression, while the utterly charming and super-low-budget “Beti and Amare” is an Ethiopian vampire film with a difference.
DIFF 2014 also acknowledges the political reality of contemporary Africa with films such as “Timbuktu” from Malian master Abderrahmane Sissako, whichs recounts Timbuktu’s brief occupation by militant Islamic rebels. The mockumentary hybrid “They Are the Dogs” is set in Morocco in the aftermath of the Arab Spring while the engagingly authentic, semi-autographical film “Die Welt” is set in Tunisia shortly after the recent Jasmine Revolution. “Imbabazi: The Pardon” explores the possibilities of reconciliation in the wake of the Rwandan genocide, and “Difret” examines the potentially destructive role of patriarchal traditions in contemporary Ethiopia.
Set in Tanzania, the disturbing but visually powerful “White Shadow” tells the story of a young albino boy named Alias who is targeted for body parts by muti traders. Veve, the latest film from the producers of the award-winning crime drama “Nairobi Half Life,” documents the double-crossing lives of those trading in khat or ‘veve’, a mildly narcotic local crop. From Moroccan director Abdellah Taia comes “Salvation Army,” an unflinchingly poetic study of a young Arab man grappling with notions of family and sexuality. Then there’s the highly anticipated film adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “Half of a Yellow Sun,” set against the difficulties of post-independence Nigeria.
“Coz Ov Moni 2: FOKN Revenge,” billed as “the world’s second first pidgin musical” is a Ghanaian hop-hop opera from rap duo the FOKN Bois, while “B for Boy” tells the story of how a Nigerian woman’s life is corrupted by the forces of patriarchy and tradition.
The Durban International Film Festival takes place from 17 – 27 July 2014. The festival includes more than 200 theatrical screenings and a full seminar and workshop programme, as well as the Wavescape Film Festival, Wild Talk Africa Film Festival and various industry initiatives, including the 7th Talents Durban (in cooperation with the Berlinale Talents) and the 5th Durban FilmMart co-production market (in partnership with the Durban Film Office).
The 35th Durban International Film Festival is organised by the Centre for Creative Arts at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (a special project of the Deputy Vice Chancellor of Humanities, Cheryl Potgieter) with support from the National Film and Video Foundation, KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development & Tourism, KwaZulu-Natal Film Commission, City of Durban, German Embassy, Goethe Institut, Industrial Development Corporation, KwaZulu-Natal Department of Arts and Culture and a range of other valued partners.