Days of Cannibalism will premiere at the Durban International Film Festival from September 10 to 20. Picture: Supplied
Days of Cannibalism will premiere at the Durban International Film Festival from September 10 to 20. Picture: Supplied

‘Days of Cannibalism’ makes its way home to DIFF

By Alyssia Birjalal Time of article published Sep 4, 2020

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Filmmaker Teboho Edkins’ documentary, “Days of Cannibalism” finally makes its way home to premiere at the Durban International Film Festival (DIFF).

Edkins, the director of the contemporary documentary Western, said the film resonates with its home audience in more intimate and personal ways and he’s excited to see how it will be received at DIFF.

“Although the film has had it’s international premiere at the Berlin Film Festival, it is really important for me that the film finally comes ‘home’ ", he said.

The film is set against the backdrop of a newly emerging China-Africa relationship and takes viewers to a remote rural region in southern Africa, a frontier space where the laws of society are in a state of flux with the new economic migrants from China.

Their arrival has upset the balance of power. Subtle moments and small gestures reveal the effect of migration, personal sacrifice, solitude and alienation. As old structures begin to disintegrate one rule asserts itself above all others: eat or be eaten.

“The idea of the story came about when I was in Guangzhou and I met traders from all over Africa staying in hotels looking to do business. I was very intrigued. Chinese traders have also settled in Lesotho where I grew up. I asked myself, ’who are they, what are they doing here and how is this affecting the local communities?’,” said Edkins.

The themes that run through the Western are globalisation and capitalism.

“It focuses on contrasting the worlds of the two communities, the Chinese and Basotho, in a parallel editing rhythm. In this rural Basotho community, a non-monetary currency has always been in use: cattle. The cow is bartered, sacrificed, used as bride price, stolen and banked as a retirement fund. It is also a ’god with a wet nose’, a creature with mythical power. In recent years, however, the Chinese migrants have started investing in cattle, which for them is simply a pragmatic economic asset. The cow suddenly becomes a simple commodity, stripped of its cultural value. Things are beginning, in the words of Yeats and Chinua Achebe, to ’fall apart’,” he said.

Edkins added that the film also grapples with the latent violence running under the surface, which culminates in the brutal robbery of the Chinese supermarket, captured on CCTV cameras, where he and his crew were taken hostage.

The film has no central characters or overarching plot. Instead it observes strained encounters and moments between the newly arrived pioneers and the indigenous communities as they unfold against a vast and harsh landscape.

“The film is a cross-genre documentary that mixes fiction and documentary, and I hope it challenges the viewer in a formal sense of thinking about documentary in a different way. It should raise questions about the spread of capitalism through globalisation and how it changes communities and systems in subtle and often irrevocable ways,” Edkins said.

At present, Edkins is working on a solo exhibition of video art in a gallery in Frankfurt, Germany, which will show additional material he filmed in Thaba Tseka and Guangzhou.

Edkins will also be a part of the Durban FilmMart session “Durban Does Docs”, talking about creative documentary making with film-makers from around the world.

DIFF films are free, with limited tickets available. Booking is essential.

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