By Sharlene Versfeld
Published July 2, 2011
The 32nd Durban International Film Festival kicks off on July 21, 2011 with the World Premiere of the South African film OTELO BURNING, directed by Sara Blecher. Set during the last days of Apartheid, the Durban-shot film tells the story of a group of South African township youngsters who discover surfing as an empowering escape from the political violence of the times. There is drama, romance, rivalry, and tragedy in this convincing fulfillment of local filmmaking potential.
The festival, that ends on July 31, will be crammed with great films from around the world. SKOONHEID, Oliver Hermanus’s ground-breaking film that caused a stir at the recent Cannes film festival, will have its first South African screening at the festival.
DIFF will also present the World Premieres of Charlie Vundla’s noir film, HOW TO STEAL 2 MILLION, John Barker’s thrilling heist flick, 31 MILLION REASONS, Faith Isiakpere’s crime drama, THE ALGIERS MURDERS, ELDORADO by new talents Shaldon Ferris and Lorreal Ferris, the hilarious comedy, TAKA TAKATA by Damir Radonic, and THE DREAM by Zuko Nodada.
Making their African Premieres are Mukunda Michael Dewil’s psychological thriller, RETRIBUTION, and Paula van der Oest’s moving film about Ingrid Jonker, BLACK BUTTERFLIES.
DIFF 2011 includes the African Premiere of the year’s most anticipated film, Terrence Malick’s THE TREE OF LIFE, which just won the Palme d’Or in Cannes.
Other highlights include Woody Allen’s MIDNIGHT IN PARIS which will close the festival, Bela Tarr’s THE TURIN HORSE, Andrey Zvyagintsev’s ELENA, Jose Padilha’s ELITE SQUAD 2: THE ENEMY WITHIN, Takeshi Kitano’s OUTRAGE, Michel Ocelot’s TALES OF THE NIGHT, SJ Clarkson’s TOAST, Lee Chang-dong’s POETRY, and Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s UNCLE BOONMEE WHO CAN RECALL HIS PAST LIVES.
African cinema will also be well-represented by Djo Tunda Wa Munga’s striking and unique VIVA RIVA!, Nigerian director Andrew Donsunmu’s visually beautiful RESTLESS CITY, Justin Chadwick’s uplifting Kenya-set film, THE FIRST GRADER, and Ebrahim El Batout’s HAWI which first appeared in Durban as a project at the inaugural Durban FilmMart in 2010.
DIFF will focus on two national cinemas this year: India and Canada. Six films from the great Indian master Satyajit Ray will be presented alongside daring new works by talented new Indian filmmakers. Leena Manimekelai will present the World Premiere of her film, THE DEAD SEA.
Other Indian films include Onir’s I AM, Sanjoy Nag’s MEMORIES IN MARCH, Kaushik Mukherjee’s Bengali hip hop film ASSHOLE, and Aamir Bashir’s AUTUMN.
In a very strong year for Canadian cinema, DIFF will present Denis Villeneuve’s Oscar-nominated INCENDIES, the gritty drama JO FOR JONATHAN,Ed Gass-Donnelly’s SMALL TOWN MURDER SONGS, Xavier Dolan’s ravishing HEARTBEATS, and the quirky FAMILIAR GROUND by Stephane Lafleur.
Canadian documentaries include Barry Steven’s PROSECUTOR, a fascinating look at the International Criminal Court, and Shannon Walsh’s ST. HENRI, THE 26TH OF AUGUST.
Germany is also well-represented at DIFF 2011 with Tom Tykwer’s THREE, Pia Marais’ AT ELLEN’S AGE, Ulrich Kohler’s SLEEPING SICKNESS and the stunning documentary EL BULLI–COOKING IN PROGRESS by Gereon Wetzel.
Local stories in the powerful documentary line-up include World Premieres such as Ryley Grunewald’s THE DAWN OF A NEW DAY where healing is shown as being more than skin deep, Mickey Dube’s SOBUKWE, a great soul about one of South Africa’s most influential but unsung heroes, the Keith Jones/Deon Maas music revolution collaboration PUNK IN AFRICA, and the Dara Kell/Chris Nizza collaboration DEAR MANDELA about innovative leadership emerging in informal settlements.
Not to be missed, DIFF will present the African premiere of MAMA AFRICA,the inspirational film about Miriam Makeba.
With the COP conference on climate change taking place in Durban later in 2011, an exceptional range of conscientising environmental films is included in this year’s Eco-Lens focus. There is heated Irish village resistance to Shell in THE PIPE; BLOOD IN THE MOBILE shows how frightening mining conditions in Congo-Kinshasa produce material for our cellphones; and, fresh from Cannes, THE BIG FIX exposes corruption and cover-ups surrounding the Mexican Gulf oil spill. COUNTDOWN TO ZERO (by
Lucy Walker whose WASTE LAND won big awards in 2010) is about nuclear weapons and challenges to disarmament, while INTO ETERNITY covers nuclear waste storage. ECO-PIRATE: THE STORY OF PAUL WATSON is about this legendary defender of our oceans and its creatures (Paul Watson will attend the festival).
The riveting SING YOUR SONG is the story of Harry Belafonte from his music and film career to his involvement in civil rights and anti-apartheid movements. A special highlight will be Leonard Retel-Helmrich’s tracking of an Indonesian family in POSITION AMONG THE STARS. This masterful film won top awards at both Sundance and IDFA.
Look out also for KING NAKI, a beautiful story of struggle and achievement set around horse-racing in the rural Transkei, the Cape Town film THE IMAM AND I, and the Durban-shot STREET KIDS UNITED.
The global financial meltdown is the focus of the 2011 Academy Award winning INSIDE JOB, while John Pilger’s biting THE WAR YOU DON’T SEE is a timely investigation into the media’s role in war.
Other documentaries cover Bollywood, Robert Mugabe, the Black Power movement in America, organic agriculture, paraplegic musicians in Kinshasa, and West Indian cricket.
Packages of short documentaries and short films are also on offer.
Opening with an outdoor screening on the beachfront on 24th July, DIFF will host the Wavescapes Surf Film Festival for the 7th consecutive year ; a six-day blast of red-hot wave action, surf stories and groundbreaking cinematography.
DIFF has become a valued meeting point for filmmakers and industry professionals, local and international, and the seminar and workshop programme is populated with leading experts offering insight and debate on a range of relevant issues.
Talent Campus Durban is an intensive five-day programme bringing together nearly 47 African filmmakers from 16 countries on the continent.
Durban FilmMart, a partnership with the Durban Film Office, not only facilitates opportunities for African projects selected for meetings with international financiers and potential co-producers, but also provides a seminar and master class programme for registered DFM delegates.
There are also a number of presentations by the National Film and Video Foundation in 2011 that marks the 10th year of DIFF’s partnership with University of KwaZulu-Natal’s AV divison who run the workshop programme for first-time filmmakers from community organisations.
Special events running with DIFF include an exhibition of Bollywood paintings by Ranjit Dahiya, organised in association with Alliance Francaise, and performances by Grammy-nominated Debashish Bhattacharya, a leading exponent of the chaturangui (Indian slide-guitar).
Festival screenings will take place at Nu Metro Cinecentre Suncoast, Ster Kinekor Musgrave, Cinema Nouveau Gateway, the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, Ekhaya KwaMashu, The Royal Hotel, Luthuli Museum (Groutville) and other venues.