Sihle Mthembu. Picture: Supplied
The 40th edition of the Durban International Film Festival started on Thursday, July 18 with  Jahmil X.T. Qubeka's "Knuckle City", which is about the boxing scene in Mdatsane in the Eastern Cape.

The festival, started by Ros Sarkin and her husband, Teddy, in 1979, will be screening 212 films, documentaries and shorts until July 28 at various venues in Durban and the North Coast. 

We asked TV writer, radio producer, film critic and author,  Sihle Mthembu  (" The Queen", "The Herd" ) , about DIFF and his memories of being part of the festival

How was your first DIFF experience? 

My first time at DIFF was in 2009 and I had gone there as a first-year because my lecturer (DIFF veteran Dr Mikhail Peppas) at varsity had encouraged us to go. I watched this free screening of a short film from Zimbabwe that had a mix of contemporary dance and beautiful visual storytelling and I was hooked. After I walked out of the screening I met Gcina Mhlophe… a great day.

Has DIFF become better or is there room for growth?

The quality of the films has been a mixed bag. Ten years ago you had films like "Amour", "The White Ribbon", "Moloch Tropical" and "Mother", as well as some of the best work locally. I remember watching "A Small Town Called Descent" or "Surfing Soweto" and thinking, I am never gonna see something like that again. Or watching Miranda July’s "The Future" in an empty cinema and crying. Transformative cinema. I have not had that experience in the past four years at the festival.

What is it about DIFF that makes it different from other film festivals?

I think it’s the scope for sure. There are a lot of films there. Especially short films and documentaries.

What would you like to see from the festival in the next 40 years?

I would like to see more feature films by women. I would like to see the audiences pack out the cinemas. There is nothing worse than seeing a brilliant film that will likely never play in South Africa again. 

Which film are you most amped to watch at this year’s festival?

I’m excited to watch "Knuckle City" by Jahmil XT Qubeka. His work is always different. "Love Runs Out" by Roger Young is a film whose script I read years ago, so I’m looking forward to that. Brilliant Mendoza’s "Alpha", and "The Right to Kill" should also be good.

* The Durban International Film Festival is hosted by the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Centre for Creative Arts in various venues around Durban until July 28 .