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Highlights of upcoming Durban International Film Fest

Cinema in all its diversity will once again be celebrated at the 29th Durban International Film Festival which runs from 23 July to 3 August.
Featuring more than 200 films from more than 95 countries, spread over more than 300 screenings at 26 venues across the city, the festival will bring together established masters of cinema and innovative new talents from around the world. Alongside the presentation of the some of the year’s finest films, the festival will run an extensive workshop and seminar programme giving the regions aspirant filmmakers an opportunity to learn from and be inspired by some of cinema’s greats.

Opening the festival is the African Premiere of Ralph Ziman’s Jerusalema, a gritty gangster thriller set on the harsh streets of Johannesburg. The festival will close with Mike Leigh’s uplifting new comedy, Happy-Go-Lucky.

The festival will offer an exciting journey into the world of contemporary cinema with a range of feature films, documentaries and short films that will not only entertain, but enlighten and inspire.

Festival director Peter Rorvik explains: “The Durban International Film Festival opens a window on the world, provides access to many different cultures and provides a space in which the cinematic art form transcends national boundaries. The recent tragic events in South Africa give cause to highlight what has long been a central idea of the Durban International Film Festival: to create understanding and acceptance of different cultures through the medium of film. A special programme of films focuses on the issue of xenophobia, and some of its attendant roots such as racism, migration and poverty.”

Under the banner Love Film, Hate Xenophobia, the festival will present films such as Darrell James Roodt’s Zimbabwe, which looks at the arduous journey a young woman makes from Zimbabwe to South Africa; Penny Woolcock’s Exodus which imagines a near-future England in which foreigners are incarcerated in a ghetto; the moving Canadian film Family Motel about Somalian refugees; Victims of Our Richness, which dissects the exploitation and brutality experienced by desperate Malian migrants; and a selection of specially commissioned films under the banner Filmmakers Against Racism made specifically about the xenophobic attacks.

The selection of films will also see some of the world’s finest and most critically-acclaimed directors represented by their new works including Gus Van Sant (Paranoid Park), Abolfazl Jalili (Hafez), Buddhadeb Dasgupta (The Voyeurs), Brillante Mendoza (Slingshot and Foster Child), Atom Egoyan (Adoration), George Clooney (Leatherheads), Andrey Zvyagintsev (The Banishment), Santosh Sivan (Before The Rains), Doris Dorrie (Cherry Blossoms - Hanami), Fatih Akin (The Edge Of Heaven), Takeshi Kitano (Glory To The Filmmaker), Jiri Menzel (I Served The King Of England), Eran Riklis (Lemon Tree), Josef Fares (Leo), Bela Tarr (The Man From London), Harmony Korine (Mister Lonely), Pen-ek Ratanaruang (Ploy) and Carlos Reygadas (Silent Light).

Says Nashen Moodley, DIFF’s manager and programmer: “While the selection boasts a number of festival regulars and favourite directors, the very exciting thing about this year’s programme is the large number of new filmmakers represented. The festival of 2008 will be one of discovery: an introduction to and celebration of the next generation of cinematic legends.”

Films from new directors, many of which are included in the feature film Competition, include: 57000 KM Between Us by Delphine Kreuter, Ain’t Scared by Audrey Estrougo, Ballast by Lance Hammer, Captain Abu Raed by Amin Matalqa, Control by Anton Corbijn, Frozen by Shivajee Chandrabhushan, Garage by Lenny Abrahamson, Gardens Of The Night by Damian Harris, A Hero’s Welcome by Brigitte Maria Bertele, Munyurangabo by Lee Isaac Chung, Seven Days Sunday by Niels Laupert, Sita Sings The Blues by Nina Paley, and A Song Of Good by Gregory King.

The festival will once again shine a spotlight on the cinema of Africa under the African Perspectives theme, presenting the World Premieres of Nothing But The Truth by John Kani, which is based on his popular play; My Black Little Heart by Durban’s Claire Angelique, a dark look at Durban’s underbelly; and uMalusi, directed by Mlandu Sikwebu and produced and shot by Jahmil X.T. Qubeka. Following successful screenings in Toronto and London, DIFF will present the African Premiere of Shamim Sarif’s The World Unseen.
Other South African films include Land Of Thirst, directed by Meg Rickards and produced by Durban’s Vuleka Productions; the Ugandan-South African co-production Divizionz, directed by Yes! That’s Us; The Bird Can’t Fly, a Dutch-South African co-production directed by Anna Threes; the satirical animation, Tengers by Michael Rix; Darrell James Roodt’s Zimbabwe; and Michael Raeburn’s much-anticipated Triomf, a controversial take on Marlene Van Niekerk’s acclaimed novel.

DIFF gathers together an expressive concentration of 71 South African films, comprising 10 feature films, 29 documentaries and 32 short films which indicate the steady growth of filmmaking in this country.
Underscoring the broader African presence of a further 38 films from the continent will be the Ousmane Sembene Retrospective, a presentation of all the major works of the late, great father of African cinema.

Other themes and focus areas include New German Cinema, Indian Cinema, A Focus On Italian Cinema, a selection of a number of films making up the European Union Film Focus, as well as a series of films on music.
August is Woman’s Month in South Africa, and DIFF is pleased to present films about women and films made by over forty women directors, including, amongst others, 3 Women by Manjeh Hekmat and Unfinished Stories by Pouraya Azarbayjani, both set in Iran; Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner Frozen River by Courtney Hunt about two single mothers; a Palestinian woman’s struggle against Israeli paranoia and bureaucracy in Lemon Tree; Lucy Walker’s Blindsight about six blind Tibetan students climbing Mount Everest; Stephanie Black’s compelling unpacking of Bob Marley’s message in Africa Unite ; and the world premiere of Karen Slater’s 50 Years of Love which addresses the institution of marriage and its relevance in today’s society.

The very popular Wavescapes Surf Film Festival returns to DIFF with ripping hot surf screen action, which is the next best thing to being in the tube itself. Wavescapes is based at the KwaSuka Theatre, with the now-legendary outdoor screening at the Bay of Plenty Lawns on 27 July launching Wavescapes with the film Highwater. Wavescapes, in partnership with Save Our Seas, will also screen Shark Angels and closing film Sharkwater, both films concerned with shark conservation. A special pre-fest screening of Bustin’ Down The Door with renowned surfing hero Shaun Tomson in attendance takes place on 3rd July at NuMetro Pavilion.

An especially strong documentary selection at the festival includes a focus on environmental and economic issues. A highlight is Lisa Merton’s Taking Root - The Vision of Wangari Maathai, about the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Kenyan woman whose campaigning for a green Kenya drew sometimes vicious response from government. Darfur - War for Water shows how the war in Darfur is also about water. Also on the theme of water is Flow: For the Love of Water, which focuses on how water and not oil is the flagship concern of the future.

As the war in Iraq continues, filmmakers continue to engage with its repercussions. In his extraordinary, prize-winning Standard Operating Procedure, Errol Morris presents an examination of the US military abuses in Abu Ghraib prison. Also featured is the Oscar-winning documentary Taxi to the Dark Side (South African producer Don Edkins), and War, Love, God and Madness by Mohamed Al-Daradji, about the difficulties experienced by the filmmaker when shooting his Oscar contender Ahlaam in Baghdad in 2004.

John Pilger’s War on Democracy, the 49th documentary by this incisive investigative journalist, focuses on US involvement in Latin America and questions whether the War On Terror is actually a War Of Terror, while The End of Poverty by Philippe Diaz explores how the deliberate actions of wealthy nations contribute to the creation of poverty.

An exciting increase in South African documentary production includes a surge of activity in the KZN region. DIFF is screening Durban Poison, an examination of the Stable Theatre in Durban, the first independent black theatre in South Africa. KZN filmmaker Omelga Mthiyane will have three films at DIFF: Flight Of The Dancer, Inanda - My Heritage and she was also co-director on Between the Mountains and the Sea; while Tiny Mungwe presents her debut Akekho uGogo. DIFF will also highlight KwaMashu - Still My Home directed by UK-based Owen ‘Alik’ Shahadah and produced by Edmond Mhlongo of K-Cap Productions; and Marc le Chat’s Stimela - The Search for the Missing Chord, produced by Mandle Ndimande.

As the films unspool, a group of young African filmmakers will participate in Talent Campus Durban, an intensive 5-day programme of workshops held in cooperation with the Berlinale Talent Campus which forms part of the Berlin International Film Festival. Under the theme “Producing African Cinema for a New World”, participants will benefit from both theoretical and practical approaches that enhance their cinematographic and creative experience. The overall objective is to empower a new generation of African filmmakers. In this period of social unrest wrongly targeting “foreigners” the Talent Campus Durban, with its 40 participants representing 19 countries, can demonstrate the art of African collaboration in action and celebrate the creative strength of diversity.


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