2013 sees the Durban International Film Festival (DIFF), with principal funding by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, return for its 34th year to celebrate the beauty and diversity of global cinema. From 18 to 28 July, Durban will be illuminated by the glow of the silver screen, with over 250 screenings in 11 venues across the city. Alongside this smorgasbord of the best of contemporary cinema from around, comprising 72 feature films, 48 documentaries and 45 short films, the festival offers a comprehensive workshop and seminar programme that facilitates the sharing of knowledge and skills by film industry experts.
The burgeoning African film industry will once more be represented at DIFF 2013, although South African film retains the key focus, with 12 feature films, as well as 16 documentaries and a generous helping of short films – most of them receiving their world premiers on Durban screens in July.
This year’s opening night film is the ground-breaking African-noir work Of Good Report by filmmaker-on-the-rise Jahmil XT Qubeka. Telling the story of a serial killer obsessed with beautiful young girls, the film expands the language of African cinema. The festival’s closing film acknowledges Angela Davis, an important figure in the African diaspora, with the film Free Angela – and all political prisoners, directed by Shola Lynch.
High-profile South African films being showcased include Layla Fourie (which received its world premier at Berlin earlier this year), The Forgotten Kingdom which is set in the movingly beautiful landscape of Lesotho, Felix, which tells the story of a young township boy intent following his dreams of being a musician, and The Good Man, an intriguing look at a globalised reality.
Other local films include Everyman’s Taxi Ian Robert’s anarchic celebration of the new South Africa, Andrew Worsdale’s long-awaited Durban Poison and Khumba, the latest outing from Cape Town animation studio Triggerfish that won best South African film at DIFF 2012 for Adventures in Zambezia and has gone on to widespread commercial success around the world. Blood Tokolosh tells the disturbing story of a man who finds himself under the spell of the mythical Southern African creature, while Angel of the Sky reprises the role of South African pilots during the second world war. Actorholic comes from Oliver Rodger, who gave us last year’s Copposites, and African Gothic is a US/South African co-production based on the Reza de Wet play Diepe Grond.
From further afield, DIFF 2013 presents a number of cinematic gems, most of which are engaged in expanding the language of African cinema while dealing with significant issues around life on the continent. Tall As The Baobab Tree, from Senegal, tells the story of a poor couple who try to sell their daughter off into a forced marriage. Yema, from Algeria, tells the metaphoric story of a how a mother’s relationship with her sons is defined by war and violence, while Virgin Margarida chronicles a dark chapter in Mozambican history. The Battle Of Tabato is a fascinating blend of history, music and surrealism while Le Presidente bends the form of the fiction film while asking fascinating questions. Something Necessary chronicles an intimate moment in the lives of two people from very different sides of history, while It’s Us deals with tribalised violence in Kenya with hope and vibrancy.
This year’s programme showcases the multiple perspectives that define the cultural landscape of contemporary Europe and, and the diverse ways in which the continent’s narratives are rendered. With support from organisations and partnerships such as EUNIC, World Documentary Exchange and Festival Scope, audiences can expect a feast of top class European films including the new Sally Potter film Ginger and Rosa which tells the story of two close friends during the liberal years of the 1960s. The Look of Love is the new film from DIFF regular Michael Winterbottom while Me and You is the first film in more than a decade from master filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci. These are just a few of the European feature films which will showcase the power of European cinema at DIFF 2013, and which will be accompanied by a wealth of European-produced documentaries.
While mainstream American cinema is often derided for dominating the global culture, the country is also home to a wealth of independent filmmakers who struggle against the monolith of Hollywood as much as filmmakers anywhere in the world. DIFF 2013 offers a showcase of this strong strand of independent filmmaking including Wrong the latest film from Quentin Dupieux who gave us the DIFF cult-hit Rubber in 2011 and Spring Breakers from Harmony Korine, the enfant terrible of American independent cinema. Francine tells the small and delicately drawn story of a socially inept woman who has just come of out prison, while The Place Beyond the Pines is the highly anticipated new drama from director Derek Cianfrance who gave us Blue Valentine.
This year DIFF acknowledges the wide diversity of sexual identities being explored prolifically on contemporary screens, no doubt a reflection of a global trend towards a broader dialogue around sexual difference. From Dennis Cotes drama Vic+Flo Saw a Bear which chronicles the relationship between an ex-convict and her much younger lover to the documentary Valentine Road which provides a sociological post-mortem on the death of a young transgender boy to Interior. Leather Bar which examines contemporary masculinity through reconstructing a censored scene from the 1980 Al Pacino film Cruising, DIFF 2013 explores a very broad continuum of sexuality. Laurence Anyways tells the sprawling but immaculately rendered tale of a transgendered man and her female lover. Dust presents a diverse group of siblings forced to confront their unfulfilled lives while Two Mothers portrays the difficult involved in a gay couple adopting a child in progressive Germany.
In keeping with a broad acceptance of diversity, DIFF’s focus includes not only GLBT sexuality but also an exploration of heterosexuality in films such It Felt Like Love in which a young girl is determined to lose her virginity and The Future in which a young girl becomes a sexual companion to a blind former action hero. Una Noche tells of two Cuban boys, one of whom has unrequited feelings for the other, as they attempt to escape across the ocean to Miami.
Documentaries that deal with sexuality gender include Pussy Riot – A Punk Prayer, I Am Divine a biopic about the gender-bending singer and artist Divine and Born This Way, about the lives of gay and lesbian people in Cameroon. Then there is the short film Atlantic Avenue which deals with the sexual attraction between a young man and a physically challenged woman.
With literally hundreds of Zombie films currently scheduled for release around the world, DIFF 2013 showcases a selection of films from the current Zombie wave. Headlining this mini-focus area is the long-awaited remake of the Evil Dead which conforms in many ways to the classic zombie genre, as does Zombie Fever 3D, one of the first zombie films from Russia, although its tongue is planted deeply in its cheek. On a more serious note, there’s the slow, mournful and thoroughly beautiful Halley which tells of a man whose body is rotting away. Frankenstein’s Army tells of a secret Nazi lab in which all manner of strange machines have been stitched together with human bodies. Then there’s Harold’s Going Stiff, an ultra-dry British zombie comedy with a big heart.
As well as these focus areas, DIFF 2013 offers a host of award-winning films from around the world, including works from many of contemporary cinema’s great masters. From Chinese director Wong Kar Wai comes The Grandmaster, which opened Berlin earlier this year, while Canadian director David Cronenberg descends once more into the darkness with Cosmopolis based on the Don deLillo novel. Takeshi Kitano, the king of stylised violence, delivers Outrage Beyond, while the enigmatic Closed Curtain comes from banned Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi. Deepa Mehta gives us a gorgeously sprawling rendition of Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children while Danish dogma director Thomas Vinterberg’s The Hunt will chill you to the bone. Then there’s the exciting news that Ashgar Farhadi, whose A Separation won both the best Foreign Picture Oscar this year as well as best film at DIFF, returns with his latest film The Past.
Feast of Doccies
In addition to the best fiction features from around the world, DIFF 2013 has a wealth of documentaries to satisfy a broad spectrum of tastes and interests. And of course, there’s a strong selection from South Africa, where the documentary form is growing in stature and volume. Riaan Hendrick’s The Devil’s Lair transports us deep into a claustrophobic drug den on the Cape Flats, while celebrated local documentary-maker Damon Foster gives us a window into the lives of crocodiles with Touching The Dragon. Angels in Exile is a moving documentary about two proud yet impoverished children who live on the streets of Durban and The Creators pays tribute to the creative power of South Africa’s youth, including acclaimed graffiti artist Faith 47. From further afield, Drama Consult tells the cannily directed story of Nigerian entrepreneurs heading to Europe to explore the possibilities of economic co-operation, while African Metropolis is a collection of short slices of reality from around the continent. The Spirit of 45, from British feature director Ken Loach looks at the enduring influence of the labour movement during the war years while More Than Honey looks at the importance of maintaining the earth’s bee population. Algorithms presents the riveting story of blind chess players in India and Fidai is a very personal story set against the Algerian battle for independence.
Wavescape Surf Film Festival
For the ninth year, DIFF partners with Wavescape to bring you a feast of surfing cinema and shark stories including 11 features and 5 shorts. Bending Colors (Jordy Smith) chronicles the rise South Africa’s prodigal son who goes from teen sensation to world super star. In Revolution true life adventurer Rob Stewart goes on a mission to reveal the rapidly deteriorating circle of life on planet earth while The Heart and the Sea is a soulful and unpretentious tribute to the surf lifestyle. Other Wavescape films, including Immersion, Desert Rebels and Water From the Moon, take us around the world for some of the sickest waves on the planet.
Wavescape opens with a free outdoor screening at the Bay of Plenty Lawns on Sunday 21 July, before locating at Ster-Kinekor Musgrave Monday 22 July to Friday 26 July.
The Films That Made Me
For the first time this year, DIFF presents a repertory section in which film fans and filmmakers have the opportunity to access a slice of film history. In The Films That Made Me, South African director Jahmil Qubeka presents five films that have been influential in his growth as a filmmaker. The five films that he will present are: Oliver Schmitz’s Mapantsula, Akira Kurosawa’s Ran, John Schlesinger’s Midnight Cowboy, Jean Jacques Annaud’s Quest for Fire and Godfrey Reggio’s Koyaanisqatsi. After each screening, Qubeka will lead a discussion regarding the importance of the film. These screenings will be part of the Talent Campus Durban programme but will also be open to the public.
The 6th Talent Campus Durban will bring together the creativity of 50 selected filmmakers from 18 different countries in Africa, chosen from over 450 submissions, who will take part in a series of masterclasses, workshops and industry networking opportunities during the Durban International Film Festival. Supported by German Embassy, Goethe-Institut and KZN Department of Economic Development and Tourism, Talent Campus Durban, a cooperation with Berlinale’s Talent Campus, entices filmmakers to enhance skills, develop collaborations and interface with the dynamic future of the film industry in Africa, and the world.
Now in its 4th year, the Durban FilmMart, a partnership project with the Durban Film Office, and supported by the City of Durban, is a film finance and co-production market presented in three strands – Finance Forum, Master Classes and the Africa in Focus seminars. 23 selected African projects (11 fiction features and 12 documentaries) will have an opportunity to hold one-on-one meetings with potential financiers, co-producers, and distributors in the Finance Forum. The documentary projects will also have an opportunity to pitch their projects to a panel of international commissioning editors in DOC Circle, a structured pitching forum co-ordinated in association with the International Documentary Festival of Amsterdam (IDFA). The fiction feature programme is coordinated in association with Rotterdam International Film Festival’s CineMart. The DFM master class and networking programme is open to registered delegates only. See www.durbanfilmmart.com for further details.
DIFF is pleased to announce that a strategic partnership has been formed with Durban Wild Talk Africa, the continent’s most respected Natural History Film Festival and Conference, which takes place at the Docklands Hotel in Durban from July 23 to 26. A selection of nine natural history films have been chosen from 445 entries from across the globe, to be screened at the Durban International Film Festival.
Durban Wild Talk Africa is considered to be Africa’s key film festival and conference for natural history and wildlife film and television programming. The event includes; workshops, seminars, masterclasses, open pitching sessions, commissioners panels and exhibitions, and is a valuable networking forum with both local and international delegates and industry leaders. This year DWTA will include the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition to be held at uShaka Marine World and sponsored by National Geographic, from 25 July to 25 September 2013. Registration for the WildTalk conference is available at http://wildtalkafrica.com/register/ .
Principal screening venues are Suncoast Cinecentre; Ster Kinekor Musgrave, Cinema Nouveau – Gateway, Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre; Ekhaya Multi-Arts Centre in KwaMashu; and the Blue Waters Hotel. Other venues include the Bay of Plenty Lawns, the Upstairs at Spiga D’oro and the Luthuli Museum on the North Coast, which will have a special programme of screenings.
Tickets should be acquired through the respective venues and prices range from R25 to R35 (R50 for 3D screenings), except at Luthuli Museum, Blue Waters, Ekhaya and Bay of Plenty lawns, which are free of charge. The Short Film programme at Upstairs at Spiga d’Oro costs R20.
Programme booklets with the full screening schedule and synopses of all the films are available free at cinemas, and other public information outlets. Full festival details can also be found on www.durbanfilmfest.co.za or by calling 031 2602506.
Organised by the Centre for Creative Arts (University of KwaZulu-Natal) the Durban International Film Festival is supported by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund (principal funder), National Film and Video Foundation, KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development and Tourism, City of Durban, German Embassy, Goethe Institut, Industrial Development Corporation, KwaZulu-Natal Department of Arts and Culture, and a range of other valued partners.