Theresa Smith

The film programme at the National Arts Festival doesn’t push a local agenda. Instead, curator Trevor Steele Taylor concentrates on films regular cine-philes wouldn’t have access to.

“One wants to challenge, to actually engage, so that the audience doesn’t just sit there like a Christmas pudding. They may hate it, but they must feel something.

“I’m inspired by cineaste Amos Vogel who passed away six months ago. One of the things he said was: ‘Film is a subversive art’ and his book certainly inspired me,” explained Steele Taylor.

While the local underground scene may be small, he has gone looking for the strange, the odd and, above all, the different for the Definitely Out of the Ordinary programme.

So, we get a short film, On the Trail of Bowakazi, directed by Nicole Schafer, with the help of Richard Stanley who, as a guest of the festival in 2010 ,went awol for a while with Schafer to go in search of the Karoo Shape-shifting Monster.

There’s also the documentary Rradinokga – Father of Snakes; internal Journey Between the Line; director Julian Butler going in search of British madness in The Bowl; plus an entire series of films from Poland.

On the South African side, films range from the comedies such as the successful Material and Skeem to the beautifully shot documentary My Hunter’s Heart and a new one from Kurt Orderson, Breathe Again (which debuted at the Encounters Film Festival).

This year the film programme hosts two guests from Europe.

“Back in 1973 Robin Hardy made one of the high points of British cinema, The Wicker Man, which the distributors thought was rubbish and wanted to throw away, but they didn’t succeed because the audiences loved it,” Steele Taylor said.

“He’s done theatre and designed theme parks and made a few films since. Then, out of the blue, at the age of 82 he makes a follow up, The Wicker Tree.

“It is a difficult sell because for so many audiences, so-called horror films are about blood and gore and lots of CGI. He’s an old man and works in a very different way. In the violent moment there’s a violent outburst, but it’s almost done as an aside and you don’t see arms being hauled out of shoulders.”

The story is about a couple of reborn Christians from Texas on a pilgrimage to convert the heathen Scotts. Hardy will be on hand to introduce his films, which deal with pagan culture, as well as discuss both between screenings.

The other guest is Patrick Watkins, son of the film director Peter Watkins.

“Peter Watkins is one of the greatest political film-makers the world has ever known and also an incredible innovator of film style. Back when he started making films there was such a reaction from the industry, they hated him because he was unpatriotic, anti-war, anti-monarchy and he was an anarchist in the truest sense.

“He now lives in France, and his last film is La Commune (de Paris 1871), which is about the French anarchist government of 1871 which lasted for a short while.”

The re-enactment of the historic moment is almost six hours long and considered quite brilliant even by detractors of the director himself.

Patrick Watson will present his father’s work and give a talk based on his father’s ideas relating to the present media crises, based on a work published online in 2003, The Media Crises.