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Dystopia rules at film festival

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to as i lay dying

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CLASSIC: In James Francos As I Lay Dying a poor family of Mississippi dirt farmers try to fulfil their mothers wish that she be buried in Jefferson, a journey fraught with dead horses, dangerous rapids, injury and fire.

This year film at the National Arts Festival takes a dystopian turn, courtesy of JG Ballard, whose oeuvre forms part of the line-up, alongside the work of previous Young Artist for film winner Darrell Roodt and this year’s Young Artist, Jahmil XT Qubeka.

Film festival director for the National Arts Festival, Trevor Steele Taylor, is a huge fan of English novelist JG Ballard’s work.

“It’s prescient. As the world falls apart more and more, Ballard’s vision of the future was extremely spot on,” says Steele Taylor.

“His whole take on architecture, deserted shopping malls, parking garages, even his fascination with crashed cars. And then being a man of a certain sexual interest, injury as a sexual turn-on …

“I’ve always wanted to do something on Ballard (pictured) and the only two films South Africans probably know about that have anything to do with Ballard are Empire of the Sun and Crash.”

Crash will screen in sequel with The Crashed Cars Show on July 6, 10pm and July 9, 10pm. Then there’s The Atrocity Exhibition (July 4, 5.30pm & July 7, 10pm) which has a doctor in a mental research institution staging bizarre microdramas. JG Ballard – The Oracle of Shepperton is a documentary directed by Thomas Cazals, a Ballard admirer who tries to get an interview with his bad-tempered idol. Steele Taylor felt it was important to include an academic component, hence a symposium (July 8, 10am) on the novelist’s work that will include Aryan Kaganoff and Nikhil Singh, both screening films at the festival.

Singh’s short film Small Town Girl is part of the Blaxploitation programme that includes Night is Coming: a Threnody for the Victims of Marikana by Kaganoff. This year’s Young Artist for Film winner, Jahmil Qubeka, will attend the screening of his films, including his new experimental short, A Night at the Summit. Several works of previous Young Artist for Film, Darrell Roodt, will also be screened – Faith’s Corner (July 9, 12.30pm) and LIttle One (July 8, 8pm). Last year the festival hosted an unofficial screening of Andrew Worsdale’s Durban Poison (July 6, 5.30pm & July 12, 5.30pm), and this year the film has officially been added to the screening list.

A section of the programme is devoted to the re-emergence of serious Afrikaans cinema, including Paul Eilers’s Die Verraaiers (July 11, 5pm & July 12, 10pm) and Katinka Heyns’s Die Wonderwerker (July 11, 12.30pm) and the premiere of a new short film by Anton Kotze, The Dead Trilogy. It will play along with two short films by Christiaan Pretorius, Angssst and Die Moord.

Steele Taylor has also chosen some old and new works. He was most impressed by Klaus-Maria Brandauer’s acting in The Strange Case of Wilhelm Reich (July 4, 8pm & July 9, 8pm) and also liked As I Lay Dying (July 6, 7.30pm & July 12, 7.30pm), James Franco’s directorial debut in which he adapted William Falkner’s 1930s classic novel.

• Films at the National Arts Festival are mostly screening in the Olive Schreiner Room at The Monument in Grahamstown. www.nationalartsfestival.co.za


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