THIS YEAR marks the 35th Durban International Film Festival (Diff) and one in which the largest number of South African films will be screened in the history of the event.
This, with a host of other highlights, was revealed at the festival media launch this week.
The festival takes place from July 17 to 27 with over 250 screenings in nine venues across the city.
Festival Manager Peter Machen expressed his pride in the growing South African content, not just in number, but also in the types of films we are producing.
“I’m very excited about the fact that our films in competition are heavily dominated by South African and African content, which has never been the case before. This year we have substantially more South African films than we have ever had in the festival with 78 films… So it’s really exciting that local content is growing substantially.”
Machen said a big part of local content this year was our 20 years of freedom and democracy programme.
“It consists of one or two features but mostly documentaries. It’s a really strong selection of South African films.
“I think it just so happens that 20 years of democracy has also seen this beautiful blossoming of South African film, and that is fantastic.”
On the content and standard of South African film at the festival, Machen said: “It certainly used to be the case that there was a degree of affirmative action in terms of our local programming, we’re certainly committed to getting everything that is of a reasonable standard out in the festival to showcase South African cinema.
“But we no longer have to accept films just because they’re South African.
“Nearly all of our local content stands on its own two feet in relation to the international content. We are no longer the stepsister of the international film industry. There is now this thing called ‘South African filmmaking’ around the world and South African filmmakers are recognised for making difficult, exciting, challenging films that interrogate subject matter that a lot of people are afraid to address. I think all of this is reason for celebration,” he said.
According to a press release 40 South African feature-length films and 38 short films will collectively represent by far the largest number of South African films in the festival’s history.
Machen said a major highlight on the South African programme was Hard to Get.
“This is an amazing film. It’s a beautifully made film from first-time director Zee Ntuli. Not only is it artistically brilliant, I also think it has strong commercial possibilities. I think there’s a strong chance Hard to Get will crack the mainstream when it releases on August 29.”
Hard to Get tackles the mercurial relationship between a handsome young womaniser and a beautiful, reckless petty criminal.
Machen was equally excited about other South African films screening this year. These include the engaging thriller Cold Harbour; Between Friends (which recounts a reunion between old varsity friends); Hear Me Move, a locally flavoured dance movie; Love the One You Love, which explores a constellation of relationships between young South Africans; the Tyler Perry-flavoured Two Choices; The Two of Us (which tells of a relationship between two siblings); and Icehorse, a surreal mystery drama set in the Netherlands from South African director Elan Gamaker.
Young Ones is a dystopian down-beat sci-fi flick directed by Jake Paltrow (Hollywood star Gwyneth Paltrow’s brother), produced by Spier Films and shot in South Africa.
The French/South African co-production Zulu explores the unhealed wounds of the new South Africa. The festival also presents the 1978 film Joe Bullet, the first work to benefit from the Gravel Road legacy project, which aims to restore films lost during apartheid.
“All of these films have strong potential. We also have some of the more ‘difficult films’ on the South African programme, but generally there is a move away from making films that interrogate our past from a kind of perspective of political worthiness and we’re moving into a new territory where we are making films specifically for audiences, and that’s important because without an audience a film is not really a film,” said Machen.
The Diff is organised by the Centre for Creative Arts at the University of KZN. It is supported by the National Film and Video Foundation, the KZN Department of Economic Development and Tourism, the City of Durban and other partners.
• For the full programme see www.durbanfilmfest.co.za.