A scene from Lusala, directed by Mugambi Nthiga. Picture: Supplied
A scene from Lusala, directed by Mugambi Nthiga. Picture: Supplied

DIFF 2020 shines spotlight on African continent

By Alyssia Birjalal Time of article published Sep 4, 2020

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If there is something that no one will be able to strip Africa of, it’s the authentic stories that have shaped its history and its people.

Many directors from all over the continent have taken to the big screen to share their authentic storytelling in compelling feature films debuting at the 41st Durban International Film Festival.

This year, owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, the event will take place virtually from September 10 to 20.

Here are our top 5 not-to-be-missed continental films at the festival this year.

“143 Sahara Street” – Algeria

Director Hassen Ferhani unhurriedly documents a shopkeeper’s conversations in “143 Sahara Street”.

The owner, Malika, has a simple shop surrounded by the desolation of the Algerian Sahara.

Truck drivers, fortune seekers and adventurers can get a cup of tea and an omelette, cigarettes or water. There’s always a free chair next to her, at the small table against the wall. Malika sees the people coming through the square windows in the thick walls, and watches them as they leave. Anyone who doesn’t know her is curious about this woman here alone.

A layered portrait gradually emerges of this independent woman in a world that seems to exist outside of time. Yet the present eventually arrives at this remote outpost, in the form of a large petrol station with a restaurant, built right next to Malika’s shop.

“Softie” – Kenya

Directed by Sam Soko, the film focuses on Boniface “Softie” Mwangi who has long fought injustices in his country as a political activist. Now he’s taking the next step by running for office in a regional Kenyan election. From the moment Boniface decides to run, telling his wife Njeri in passing with a hesitant laugh, he responds to each challenge with optimism. But running a clean campaign against corrupt opponents becomes increasingly difficult to achieve with idealism alone. Boniface soon finds that challenging strong political dynasties is putting his family at risk.

“This is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection” – Lesotho

Directed by Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese, this film tells the story of a community who stand together in a fight to be resettled.

In a village nestled among the mountains of land-locked Lesotho, an 80-year-old widow awaits the return of her only surviving family member, her son, a migrant worker in a South African coal mine. Sombre messengers deliver tragic news to her. An invisible wall of bewilderment arises and stands between Mantoa and the outside world. Consumed by grief, her yearning for death to reunite her with her family steadily grows. Mantoa winds up her earthly affairs and makes arrangements for her burial. Her plans are interrupted when she learns that the village is to be forcibly resettled to make way for the construction of a dam. The land will be flooded and the cemetery desecrated. Mantoa’s resolve is unwavering, igniting a collective spirit of defiance within the community. In the final, dramatic moments of her life, Mantoa’s legend is forged.

“Lusala” – Kenya

Directed by Mugambi Nthiga, “Lusala” grapples with sibling affection and a 22-year-old’s mental state. Lusala is a young man who lives and works in two very separate parts of Nairobi. His uncle and aunt, Onesmus and Beatrice, adopted him 12 years ago from rural Kenya, and raised him together with their daughter Joma, now 17. When Lusala and Joma’s unabashed sibling affection begins to concern Beatrice, she tells her husband that Lusala should move out and start life on his own. With his uncle’s help, and with Joma’s moral support, Lusala moves into a flat closer to his garage workplace. Days later, Lusala’s youngest sister Bakhita, who has been away at boarding school, runs away and unexpectedly shows up at his flat. When word reaches Onesmus, the resulting confrontation reveals that Lusala’s mental state is fragile and in peril, and despite his family’s best intentions, a bigger, more ominous confrontation lies ahead.

“Our Lady of the Nile” – Rwanda

Atiq Rahimi’s “Our Lady of the Nile” sees young girls sent to Our Lady of the Nile, a prestigious Catholic boarding school perched on a hill, where they are taught to become the Rwandan elite. With graduation on the horizon, they share the same dormitory, the same dreams and the same teenage concerns. But throughout the land, and within the school, a deep-seated antagonism is rumbling, about to change these young girls’ lives – and the entire country – forever.

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