"Knuckle City", a film by Jahmil X.T. Qubeka opened the 40th Durban International Film Festival in Durban. Picture: Supplied

Durban is abuzz with film-makers, actors and fans who have travelled from far and wide to attend the Durban International Film Festival (DIFF). 

The festival, in its 40th year, has been a custodian of great films from around the world and DIFF manager, Chipo Zhou says this is a great achievement for South Africa. 

We chatted to Zhou about the programme and calibre of films on offer at #DIFF2019. 

Tell us about the entries? 

We are definitely seeing a growth in the number of films being made and a diversity in the filmmakers making these films in South Africa. As more films are being made, the experience gained is highlighted in the quality of productions. W

e had about 300 South African films submitted to DIFF this year, that were produced between 2018 and 2019, this is including shorts, a significant jump from about under 50 last year and in 2017 as well. We had a carefully selected international programming team and so we can expect some thought provoking and engaging content.

It seems like the standard of film just keeps getting better... 

They do, the creatives are pushing boundaries and I am always overwhelmed by the number of high quality submissions we receive. The programmers can attest to what a daunting task it is cutting down the selections.

What’s your thoughts on fresh, young talent entering the industry and how does DIFF support this? 

The recently launched Isiphethu programme is running an IsiZulu script writing residency for the first time as part of the re-imaging of our outreach programme, which has included the brand identity that was the birth of its name and the development of a more substantive local programme that we hope will start to breed a new generation of filmmakers who would have otherwise never had an opportunity to develop their work, a celebration of our own. 

Internationally, we are seeing a lot of first time directors with some interesting content, and of note we have over 20 Talents alumni films being showcased at this edition and we are very proud of this. I think the new talent is bold and fearless in the way they write their narratives and I’m very excited to get feedback on the films in this year’s programme.

What are some of the changes to #DIFF2019? 

We are ever evolving to accommodate the needs of the industry. This year, Locations Africa joins the DIFF family, the first platform of its kind on the continent. Our hope is to sell our stunning continent to the world and encourage the industry to come and film here. 

We have a bigger focus on documentaries in the industry programme as Durban Does Docs which we anticipate will help improve on the content, not just the quantity of films being made, but the quality. As a festival with an Oscar qualifying designation, we are very proud of this development.

Why are film festival important to the industry, economy and society? 

The DIFF specifically prides itself on not just being an exhibition platform, but a development space with various incubators and residencies taking place for projects at different stages. This produces better quality films, and creates employment opportunities when these films go into production. 

Society watches a lot of film, as seen by box office numbers globally, and the better the quality of viewing, the more discerning audiences we cultivate. Festivals are a place for networking, many partnerships, collaborations and co-productions are born out of these spaces.

Why should we come out and support #DIFF40? 

We have such a wide selection of films, that there is a film for everyone. As we celebrate our 40th year, it is important for us that our community come out and celebrate with us. We also have our audience choice award and we hope that people will participate in this, to select their favourite film for an award. 

The information that comes out of this voting also informs our curations, an indication of what our Durban audiences would like to see on their big screens going forward.