The Art of Fallism, a South African/Norwegian documentary, that teases out the nuanced, yet deeply complex stories of those who struggle for a voice within the collective struggle for equality will have its African premiere at the 41st Durban International Film Festival which takes place online from 10 to 20 September 2020.
A debut film by Norwegian director Aslaug Aarsæther, and the second film for Icelandic/Norwegian co-director Gunnbjørg Gunnarsdóttir, with two womxn producers Cape Town-based Wisaal Abrahams of Pink Rock Media and Norwegian Ingvild Aagedal Skage of Isme Film.
The film premiered at HOTDOCS in Canada earlier this year and has been nominated for ‘Best Documentary’ at the Queer Lisboa Festival which takes place in September. It will also compete in the “New Filmmakers Competition” at São Paulo International Film Festival.
The Art of Fallism emerged and evolved from the Norwegian film-makers questioning the absence of debates around equality, race, and gender and how they relate, in their own country. The film uses the 2015 #RhodesMustFall movement in South Africa, as its point of departure, while using the voice of the artist as a metaphor for the desire for understanding, capacity, and change.
The #RhodesMustFall uprising began at the University of Cape Town, as a challenge to the presence of the statue of Cecil John Rhodes. Student, Chumani Maxwele, by throwing faeces onto the statue, protests against its presence and colonial representation and by extension its insidious manifestation in education in the country. This launches a student movement to topple the statue and the colonial education system entrenched within the establishment, which reaches other tertiary institutions around South Africa.
In understanding this struggle the students realised that education is systemically flawed by its exclusions of those who are not financially privileged to access it. Enter the #FeesMustFall movement which targeted the concept of student fees demanding an increase in funding to tertiary institutions across the country.
These events awakened a new generation of activists connected by a common cause, bringing together people from myriad backgrounds including young township men, feminists, and the trans community, all who wanted to revolutionize a racist and systematically unequal South Africa.
“While the students marched, protested and staged sit-ins, political art practices, under the banner of “Fallism,” began to push the limits of critical thought,” explains co-producer Wisaal Abrahams. “The students began to question the hyper-masculine approach to the movement, and its expression through art to the exclusion of the queer, trans, and femme artists. The Art of Fallism, engages with some of these individuals who refused to allow the movement and its off-shoots to carry on without them.”
“What is evident is that this generation of youth is fatigued by apartheid legacies,” says co-producer Ingvild Aagedal Skage. “And what the students experience individually and collectively, within the context of the movement, is a representation of the vast inequality amongst South Africans – a place where voices are not heard and honoured, and people have to resort to acts of violence or disruption to make their point”.
The final act of disruption is dramatically illustrated, a year later as transgender activists, feeling side-lined and ignored, capture an art exhibition celebrating the movement to be consciously included, but instead, they are blamed for destroying it. The movement is left hanging in uncertainty, much like the future of a free and equal South Africa.
“It is a highly complex space, where the collective goal remains the focus, yet the individual groups within this, experience exclusionary politics. The very thing they desire to dismantle,” says Wisaal Abrahams. ‘And the very thing we were incredibly challenged with when making this film.”
“As a black womxn producer it was essential for me to come on board this project, to support the process of the making of the film. As we all seek glory and recognition for our stories, we also need to understand that the colonial models on which we based this success on, haven’t considered the imbalance of power when retelling them. Our stories must have guardianship that honours this, and we believe we have been able to do this in telling these stories.”
Producers Wisaal Abrahams and Ingvild Aagedal Skage will feature in an “Engage” session at the 11th Durban FilmMart virtual edition (4 – 13 September) where they will speak candidly about their experience and the notion of de-colonial approaches to storytelling which became a strong guiding tool for their production process.
The Art of Fallism will be streamed from the DIFF online platform from 10 to 20 September. The DIFF films are free, with limited tickets available, and booking is essential.
August and September will be a period for Ethiopian filmmaker, Tamara Mariam Dawit, who has the African premiere of her documentary Finding Sally, at Encounters International Documentary Film Festival (20-30 August) and the Durban International Film Festival (10-20 September), and she is pitching her latest film project, Mehal Sefari, at the finance forum in the 11th Durban FilmMart (4 -13 September).
Finding Sally is a haunting film that unravels a secret held by her aunts, that leads her through the tortured recent history of an ancient country.
Tamara Mariam Dawit knew she had an unusual collection of aunts in Ethiopia, her estranged father’s sisters. Gregarious and independent, they were painters, teachers, aid-workers, even a talk show host. They’d been upper-class children of a diplomat, at the worst time to be upper-class Ethiopians – amid the end of the ancient monarchy of Emperor Haile Selassie in the early ‘70s, the chaos of a military dictatorship and a civil war between self-proclaimed Communists
And there’d been another sister about whom she knew virtually nothing. She would discover that Selamawit – known as Sally – had been a 23-year-old member of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Party. She’d gone from being a vivacious, social and politically engaged student at Ottawa’s Carleton University to a fugitive on the Ethiopian government’s most-wanted list.
Finding Sally is Dawit’s uncovering of a generation of horror, fueled by her own family’s history of survival mode. It begins with Dawit’s arrival in the capital of Addis Ababa, and face-to-face revelations from her aunts about their once glamourous life and the fraught existence of ostensible “counter-revolutionaries” like their father (who was a godson of the emperor himself).
And through it, all Sally’s story shone. Of her sisters, she was the most charismatic, the one who fell in love most easily, the one whose heart literally led her to embrace Ethiopia’s political fever and even marry an EPRP commander.
Sally’s story unfolds alongside that of “The Red Terror,” a half-million deaths, most of them young people, representing the decimation of a generation under the ruthless crackdown of the country’s military leader, Mengistu Haile Mariam.
But it also is a story of the resilience of family, of Sally’s efforts to protect her sisters from her choice, of their interrogations in rooms with blood-spattered walls, and of the hope that such bonds can remain strong even as Ethiopia’s status as a democracy remains fragile.
“As a child, I grew up hearing stories from my vibrant Ethiopian aunts,” Dawit says, “tales about their grandmother helping the war effort against the Italians, hitchhiking in Europe, lavish cocktail parties.
“But lost in all their stories was Sally, whom no one ever mentioned to me. It wasn’t until my early thirties that I stumbled upon a photo of Sally, but the family was hesitant to talk about her. Little by little, I managed to convince my grandmother and then my aunts to share Sally’s story
“The film poses the question that arises when someone you love disappears without a trace: how do you cope? It explores not only how my family has managed loss, but how the country has managed the loss, pain, and trauma of the Red Terror. My family is just one of many still dealing with those deaths, after fear of public mourning under the military government forced so many to suffer in silence.”
An interesting link to South Africa, is that the score of Finding Sally is composed by South African- Canadian Musician Zaki Ibrahim (Polaris and Juno nominated) and blends Ethiopian musical styles with Zaki’s own retro-Afrofuturist style. Recorded in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with renowned Ethiopia producer Abegasu Shiota Zaki’s voice is included throughout the score as a representation of Sally’s presence in the story.
Finding Sally is written and directed by Tamara Mariam Dawit, produced by Isabelle Couture and executive produced by Katarina Soukup for Catbird Films (Canada). In association with documentary Channel, with the financial support of the Canada Media Fund, Ontario Arts Council, and the Canadian Film or Video Tax Credit. It is distributed in Canada by Cinema Politica and represented internationally by Rise & Shine in Berlin.
.Joint African Premiere at Encounters International South African Documentary Film Festival: August 20 to 30, 2020 encounters.co.za on Sat 22nd Aug / 8.30pm (GMT +2) followed by a Q&A with Dawit @ 9.50pm (GMT+2)
Additional Screenings: at Durban International Film Festival September 10 to 20, 2020 ccadiff.ukzn.ac.za (Dates to be confirmed)
Sally was an aristocrat, a dignitary’s daughter, and an Embassy brat. Her father’s posting as an Ethiopian diplomat meant that the family lived in various countries before settling in Canada in Selamawit Dawit – Sally to her friends – went to Carleton University in Ottawa and was a bright, outgoing young student with many friends and hopeful suitors. In the summer of 1973,
Sally traveled to Ethiopia on holiday. She never came back. In a few short months, Sally’s life changed drastically. She went from being a party girl obsessed with clothes and perfume to a communist and women’s group leader who gave speeches against the Ethiopian government.
During her tumultuous time in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, she was swept up in the Marxist movement after meeting Tselote Hizkias, deputy commander and future rebel leader of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Party (the EPRP). Deeply in love, Sally and Tselote were married in a small civil ceremony. Together, they fought to overthrow Emperor Haile Selassie. In power since 1930, Selassie was Ethiopia’s Head of State and a close acquaintance of Sally’s father.
In September of 1974, the military junta (“the Derg”) toppled Selassie in a military coup. Its leader, Mengistu Haile Mariam, declared himself Chairman, ignoring the communist ideals and youth movement that powered the revolution. The EPRP challenged the Derg’s rule and pushed for a broad-based civilian-run democracy while also engaging in campaigns against the military government. The Derg, in turn, launched attacks against the EPRP, sending both the military and armed peasant groups to track down hundreds of “enemies of the state.” Violence soon became widespread across the country.
Sally and her husband hastily went underground. Together, they escaped Addis Ababa and vanished into the mountains of Northern Ethiopia. For years, Sally’s family searched for her throughout Europe, Africa and North America. They desperately chased rumours of her whereabouts, showing her photo to strangers and seeking help from mystics.
Some forty years after the events, director Tamara Dawit pieces together the mysterious journey of Sally, the aunt she never knew. No one in her family had been willing to speak about this mysterious relative, but after years of persistent questioning, family members are starting to fill in the blanks.
Like most Ethiopians, the Dawits learned to stay silent about events that occurred during the “Red Terror”– a bloodbath from 1977 to 1978 that Amnesty International has stated was responsible for the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of people. The Derg remained in power until 1991.
If time doesn’t necessarily heal such deep wounds, it at least allows the fear to gradually subside. Today, in a time when Ethiopia is going through important political changes once again, many Ethiopians are ready to share their story. Using Sally’s personal history as a thread, the film sheds light on a dark and little-known chapter of Ethiopian history.
Finding Sally features intimate testimonials from Tamara’s grandmother and aunts, a moving collection of recovered family photos, a wealth of fascinating stock footage from the 60s and 70s, and evocatively crafted visuals that invoke the presence of Sally throughout the story. Who was Sally? How and why did she become a revolutionary? Whatever the answers may be, one thing is certain – Sally’s fate is deeply entwined with the fate of the countless individuals who died during the Red Terror.
From Director Tamara Dawit
As a child, I grew up hearing elaborate stories about their childhoods from my vibrant Ethiopian aunts – tales about their grandmother helping the war effort against the Italians, meetings with fortune tellers, hitching in Europe, lavish cocktail parties, or sneaking out to go to the beach. The stories were pleasurable and exciting, painting a vision of a wonderful past. However, I could never decipher which stories were true and which ones had been spiced up with their typical Ethiopian romanticism.
Lost in all their stories was Sally, a family member that no one ever mentioned to me. It wasn’t until my early 30s that I had stumbled upon a photo of Sally, but the family was hesitant to talk about her. Little by little, I managed to convince my grandmother and then my aunts to share Sally’s story.
Each of my aunts has her own version of events and point of view regarding Sally. However, despite their differences in opinion, my aunts all share a common sense of loss. The film poses the question that arises when someone you love disappears without a trace: how do you cope? It explores not only how my family has managed this loss, but also how the entire country has managed the loss, pain, and trauma of the Red Terror (a period of sustained state violence). My family is just a small example of how many Ethiopians are still dealing with those deaths, and how the fear of public mourning under the military government forced so many people to suffer in silence.
My aunt Sally and many of her peers lost their lives fighting for what they believed could be a better Ethiopia. They envisioned a united and democratic Ethiopia that would embrace everyone equally – something I think is still possible despite the dangerous ethnic divisions that plague Ethiopia today.
I hope that Finding Sally can be a plea for freedom of speech and critical thinking, and also an indictment of silence in general in Ethiopia. Even today, as young people frequently protest the government, their elders are still hesitant to talk about their own activism and past losses which closely mirror many aspects of the present-day situation. I hope that this film can be a catalyst to discussing the country’s past and engaging in critical discourse about the road ahead.
South African, Berlin-based filmmaker Teboho Edkins’s cross-genre documentary Western, Days of Cannibalism will have its joint African Premiere at the Encounters South African Documentary Film Festival on Friday 28 August at 8pm and at the Durban International Film Festival from 10 to 20 September.
Days of Cannibalism, which had its World Premiere at the Berlinale International Film Festival in February, is set in the rugged terrain of a remote rural region in the mountain kingdom of Lesotho, Southern Africa. Here modern-day pioneers are met with unease by local communities, and self-made Chinese merchants negotiate their place alongside traditional Basotho cattle breeders.
‘The film, like a classical Western, takes place in a universal frontier space in which the laws of society are in a state of flux,” explains Edkins. “I am fascinated by the notion of settlers moving into new spaces, and what this does to the status quo, especially within the context of globalisation and capitalist forces. The arrival of new settlers in Lesotho – economic migrants from China – has upset the balance of power. Old laws and old gods are being called into question. Against the backdrop of a newly emerging China-Africa relationship Days of Cannibalism explores the complexities and the latent tensions this encounter gives rise to.”
The film avoids central characters or an overarching plot; instead strained moments and small gestures between the newly arrived pioneers and local communities unfold against a vast and harsh landscape.
Produced by KinoElektron, Day Zero Films, Kepler Film Days of Cannibalism the world sales rights have been picked up by Paris based Indie Sales.
The film has screened at major film festivals in Europe and the USA: CPH DOX in Copenhagen, Sweden, in New Directors / New Films in New York, USA, Visions du Réel in Switzerland , DOK.fest in Munich, Germany and others.
Edkins will also present his journey in making the film on the Durban Does Docs platform at the 11th Durban FilmMart, Africa’s premier film industry event (4-13 September).
The joint African Premiere takes place at Encounters International South African Documentary Film Festival (20-30 August): encounters.co.za on Friday,i 28 August/ 8pm (GMT +2) followed by a Q&A with Teboho (Both free but with limited tickets – booking essential) The film is available for 24 hours from 8pm; and at Durban International Film Festival (Free but with limited tickets – booking essential) available from September 10 to 20, 2020 ccadiff.ukzn.ac.za
‘This Is Not A Burial, It’s A Resurrection’, a haunting tribute to land, community and ancestry, stars the late, much-loved SA actress Mary Twala in her swan song performance.
The first film from Lesotho, made by a Mosotho filmmaker, to screen at an international festival, ‘This Is Not A Burial, It’s A Resurrection’, directed by Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese, was viewed by critics as one of the best films at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, held in January.
The visually striking drama, set in the mountains of Lesotho, opens with an elderly widow named Mantoa (Mary Twala), grieving the loss of her son. Determined to die and be laid to rest with her family, her plans are interrupted when she discovers that the village and its cemetery will be forcibly resettled to make way for a dam reservoir. Refusing to let the dead be desecrated, she finds a new will to live and ignites a collective spirit of defiance within her community.
The film won the World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Visionary Filmmaking at Sundance. Allan Hunter of Screen International said, “’It offers a vivid, beautifully crafted reflection on identity, community and the tension between respecting age-old traditions and accepting the seemingly unstoppable march of progress.” On Twitter, Los Angeles film critic Robert Koehler wrote: “Add Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese’s name to the ranks of great young filmmakers with his first narrative feature ‘This Is Not A Burial, It’s A Resurrection’, a work of extraordinary poetics and emotion, an unforgettable giant from Lesotho.”
The film continues to travel internationally, and has taken home six further awards, including a Best Actress prize for Twala.
On Twala’s role, Variety magazine’s Guy Lodge wrote, “[Twala] gets the film showcase of a lifetime here, her wiry body language alternately trembling with desolation and defiance, keeping Mantoa’s mission riveting even as it fails to unfold along standard procedural lines. Mosese’s script skips and glitches across stages of the process, as if in sync with the way Mantoa sees her own place in the world of the living: half in and half out.”
“It was an incredible, life-changing experience birthing this film,” says producer Cait Pansegrouw of lauded production company URUCU. “We lived in the mountains, with limited access to water and electricity and fought against extreme weather conditions, all while transporting Ma Mary to location on horseback. For it to be opening DIFF, a festival very close to my heart and in my home province, is extremely special. I know both Mary and casting director Moonyeenn Lee, both of whom are no longer with us, will be with us in spirit as we bring this film to our local audiences.”
For director Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese, the film is deeply personal. “When I was a child, my family was evicted from our home,” he says. “My grandmother’s village is undergoing forced resettlement right now. My experience of displacement has significantly impacted who I am and how I see the world. Urucu believed in me from the beginning and Cait’s passion in particular was the driving force behind ‘Resurrection’.”
The film also stars film and television icon Jerry Mofokeng Wa Makhetha (‘Tsotsi’, ‘Fanie Fourie’s Lobola’, ‘Five Fingers for Marseilles’, ‘Four Corners, ‘Scandal’, ‘Soul City’, ‘Yizo Yizo’, ‘Isidingo’), Makhaola Ndebele (‘Machine Gun Preacher’, ‘Money Monster’, ‘Nomzamo’) and Tseko Monaheng (‘Naka la Moitheri’, ‘Five Fingers for Marseilles’).
‘This Is Not A Burial, It’s A Resurrection’ will release in South Africa in 2021. It will be distributed by Indigenous Film Distribution.
The Wavescape Surf and Ocean Festival presented by VANS has announced a bumper lineup of 19 films at the Durban International Film Festival (DIFF), with the addition of a unique evening of talks dedicated to the ocean.
In keeping with an increasingly urgent mandate to conserve our oceans and our planet, Wavecape brings Slide Night, featuring talks by ocean thought leaders on a wide range of topics – including science, sustainability, adventure and activism – to its programme of films to be screened at DIFF from 21 to 26 July.
Slide Night, which is attended by sellout crowds in Cape Town every December, will be hosted by PETCO and Wavescape at the South African Association for Marine Biological Research at uShaka Marine World on Thursday 25 July. Well known ocean advocate, free diver and Durban surfer Olivia Symcox will MC the evening, with talks ranging from how to recycle your trash to a Sea Shepherd skipper speaking about the activist group’s work in South Africa.
Wavescape also announced several blockbuster documentaries for DIFF, including Andy Irons: Kissed by God and Trouble: The Lisa Andersen Story that will be screened at Musgrave Ster Kinekor.
The award-winning Cape Town big wave movie Satori, as well as the Mikey February classic Can’t Steal Our Vibe, and two other short films will be screened on opening night at the Bay of Plenty in Durban on Sunday 21 July at 7pm. This screening is free, and the members of the public are invited to wrap up warmly and bring picnics as well as chairs or blankets to sit on.
The festival then moves on to two days of free screenings at uShaka Marine World and three nights at Musgrave Ster Kinekor. Several African premieres will be screened, including How to Learn How to Surf, a hilarious spoof of surf culture fresh off its world premiere in the US. Thank You Mother features South Africa and Australia, and is narrated by Australian filmmaker Albert Falzon, who made the seminal 1970 surf film Morning of the Earth.
What is a surf film festival without huge waves? Wavescape will present the African premiere of White Rhino, featuring gigantic waves in Hawaii, Tahiti, and Fiji. Nordurland, the other premiere, is shot in the Arctic Circle, and will no doubt have Durban surfers running for their wetsuits, which they do when water temperatures drop below 28 degrees Celsius.
Other films include the ode to the ocean, Emocean, filmed in Australia, California and Hawaii and featuring conservationist Sacha Guggenheimer, Pipeline surfing legend Jamie O’Brien, big wave pioneer Jeff Clark, iconic surf filmmaker Paul Witzig, and Hawaiian photographer Brent Bielmann.
Transcending Waves, directed by the Gauchos del Mar brothers Julian and Joaquin Azulay, who will be in attendance, features a sweeping epic shot in the Falkland Islands, where they try to use surfing to help heal the scars created by the 1982 War between Britain and Argentina.
Andy Irons: Kissed by God is the untold and tragic story of Andy Irons’ bipolar disorder and opioid addiction.
To book for SLIDE NIGHT ONLY at Ushaka Marine World, go to qkt.io/zDffKq