By Kevin Kriedemann and Joy Sapieka
Published July 30, 2013
A feel-good South African family movie created mainly by women and starring a 14-year-old boy, has won the Audience’s Choice Award at the 34th annual Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) in South Africa. The film, FELIX, brought both tears and laughter to the audience who ended up voting it their best film at this southern Africa’s longest running film festival.
In FELIX, 14-year-old Felix Xaba dreams of becoming a saxophonist like his late father but his mother, Lindiwe, thinks jazz is the devil’s music. When Felix leaves his township friends to take up a scholarship for grade eight at an elitist private school, he defies his mother and turns to two aging members of his father’s old band to help him prepare for the school jazz concert.
DIFF’s Festival manager, Peter Machen, called FELIX “a South African equivalent of Billy Elliott… a lovely, vibrant, feelgood film about a young township boy intent on following his dreams.”
FELIX‘s all-star cast includes Joburg-born Oscar-nominee Dame Janet Suzman in her first South African film; South African Film and Television Award (SAFTA) Best Actress winner Linda Sokhulu who’ had roles in ISIDINGO and GENERATIONS TV series, in her feature debut; and newcomer Hlayani Junior Mabasa, who was cast in the title role from more than 400 auditions across South Africa.
FELIX was created by a predominantly female creative team, with SAFTA Lifetime Achievement winner Roberta Durrant directing; Natalie Haarhoff as the DOP; Shirley Johnston as the screenwriter; Kate Schalk as the line producer; Surisa Surisa as the art director; Ayesha Khatieb as the wardrobe stylist; Islyn Goliath as the hair and makeup artist; and Maryke Kruger as the editor. This makes Felix the first South African film written, directed, shot, edited and line-produced by women since the introduction of black majority rule in 1994.
Shirley’s acclaimed script won the Southern African International Film and Television Market (Sithengi)’s Writer’s Forum Award; was a finalist in the US Specscriptacular Competition; and was a quarter-finalist in both Francis Ford Coppola’s American Zoetrope Screenplay Contest and the Moondance Screenwriting Competition.
Musical director Murray Anderson, who has recorded Gold and Platinum records for the likes of Abdullah Ibrahim, worked closely on the infectious jazz soundtrack with former Standard Bank Young Artists of The Year Mark Fransman and Bokani Dyer, as well as triple 2012 South African Music Awards nominee Lwanda Gogwana.
FELIX is a Penguin Films production for Sabido Productions, distributed by Crystal Brook Distribution. Felix will be released in 40 cinemas across Southern Africa on September 13, 2013.
Watch and embed the trailer at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4XC2YXTxuhQ/
Listen to the music at http://www.felixthemovie.com/cape-jazz-soundtrack/