The festival’s closing film, Dust is a slow burning tension thriller set in post- apocalyptic times.
The festival’s closing film, Dust is a slow burning tension thriller set in post- apocalyptic times.

15 doccies and features in running for top spot at DIFF 2020 awards

By Alyssia Birjalal Time of article published Sep 5, 2020

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Each year film fanatics and fans get their dose of abstract storytelling in features, documentaries and short films at the The Durban International Film Festival.

This year, despite the Covid-19 global pandemic, 60 films are on offer virtually, with a few in the running to win awards.

Here’s the films in the running at #DIFF2020.

FEATURE FILMS

“Farewell Amor” - Angola

Reunited after 17 years, an Angolan immigrant is joined in the US by his wife and daughter. Now strangers sharing a one-bedroom apartment, they discover a shared love of dance that may help them overcome the distance between them.

“Dust”

The festival’s closing film, “Dust” is a slow burning tension thriller set in post- apocalyptic times.

Directed by Pieter du Plessis, a filmmaker from Johannesburg, the story revolves around Rachel and her traumatised family.

Running from a great deal, Rachel finds asylum at a remote farmstead in a barren landscape, she believes that they have found a place to rest before moving on again, until the matriarch of the farm asks her to marry one of her sons. This sets off a cascade of clashing allegiances and ideologies that becomes more and more constricting to the young woman, her crippled father and adopted little brother.

“Lusala” - Kenya

Directed by Mugambi Nthiga “Lusala” gripples with sibling affection and a 22-year old’s mental health. Lusala (22) is a young man who lives and works in two very separate parts of Nairobi. His uncle and aunt, Onesmus and Beatrice (late 40’s), adopted him twelve years ago from rural Kenya, and raised him together with their daughter Joma (17). When Lusala and Joma’s unabashed sibling affection raises concerns with Beatrice, she imposes on her husband to make Lusala 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 in boarding school, runs away and unexpectedly shows up at his flat. Word reaches Onesmus that Bakhita. The resulting confrontation reveals that Lusala’s mental state is fragile and in peril, and despite his family’s best intentions, one bigger, more ominous confrontation lies ahead.

“Force of Habit” - Finland

Force of Habit deconstructs the invisible use of power towards women both in private lives and in the society. Following 11 women, we experience their point of view and dive into the female gaze.

“Stam (The Tree)” - South Africa

Directed by Louw Venter, a celebrated award wining actor and screenwriter, this Afrikaans film zooms in on Chantal, a homeless addict who leaves her young son Jonah behind while she goes off to turn a trick for Cassie, a misogynistic businessman on a sex and drugs bender.

Before leaving Jonah behind in their shelter below a bridge, Chantal promises to be back soon. Meanwhile, Dawid, a young Afrikaans policeman wakes up next to his Muslim girlfriend Samiah, a young nurse who suspects she may be pregnant with his baby. Samiah craves a picture-perfect life, but Dawid, struggling with his own demons, shies away from the commitment of marriage. Dawid meets up with Cassie, his older brother, who begs Dawid to appease his estranged wife, Izzie, on his behalf.

“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 as well as within the school, deep-seated antagonism is rumbling, about to change these young girls’ lives – and the entire country – forever.

“Take Me Somewhere Nice” - Netherlands, Bosnia, Herzegovina

On the edge of adulthood, Alma leaves her mother’s home in the Netherlands and travels to her native Bosnia to visit the father she’s never met. But from the start nothing goes as planned. Her cousin Emir gives her a frosty reception and mocks her easy life in the West. At the same time, undeniable sexual chemistry leads Alma into a passionate relationship with Emir’s best friend, the troublemaker Denis. As the obstacles mount, Alma stays fearlessly determined to follow her plan and find her father.

“This is not a Burial, it’s a Resurrection” - Lesotho

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

In a village nestled amongst the pythonic mountains of land-locked Lesotho, an 80-year 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 and reuniting with her family steadily grows. Mantoa winds up her early affairs and makes arrangements for her own burial. Her plans are punctuated when she learns that the village is to be forcibly resettled due to the construction of a dam reservoir. 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 and made eternal.

DOCUMENTARIES

“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 gas station with a restaurant, built right next to Malika’s shop.

“A Rifle and A Bag” - India, Romania, Italy, Qatar

Algeria in the late 1980s, during a period of intense violence, a Bollywood movie has become an unexpected sensation all over the country. Following the nostalgia of this love story coming from far away, “Janitou” explores what love means in today’s Algerian society and detangles with tenderness and seriousness the emotional identity of a traumatized generation.

“In your eyes, I see my country” - Morocco, France

Neta Elkayam and Amit Haï Cohen are two musicians living in Jerusalem. Partners in life and on stage, they create music that revisits their common Jewish Moroccan heritage and attempts to heal the wounds of exile carried by their parents. In Your Eyes, I See My Country follows them as they journey for the first time to Morocco. Generously opening to Kamal Hachkar’s attentive camera, the couple performs across the country, visiting the neighbours their relatives left behind, exploring their Berber roots and witnessing first-hand a society where Muslims and Jews cohabit in peace. From one musical encounter to another, Neta and Amit reshape their perception of their dual identities. With a deep and sincere humanism, they interrogate their place in the world and their future with their new-born child. Enlivened by enchanting musical performances, Hachkar’s compassionate film resurrects the dream of building bridges between cultures.

“FADMA: Even Ants Have Wings” - Morocca, Belgium

In a small Berber community in the High Atlas of Morocco, villagers follow an immutable division of labour. Women cook, clean, raise children, tend the animals and fetch water at the source, while men, when field work is scarce, take naps or sit at cafés for hours. Nobody would think of questioning this age-old order, until Fadma, a fierce and progressive-minded woman, arrives with her family from Casablanca. Determined to upend the status quo, she initiates the other wives to the concept of gender equality and encourages them to start a cooking strike. As long as men don’t take part in domestic tasks, they’ll have to eat at the village’s only restaurant. Capturing their lively arguments with discretion and respect, Jawad Rhalib brings out the humour and theatricality in this battle of the sexes.

“Influence” - South Africa

This story of influence and weaponised communication centers on the infamous Lord Tim Bell and his associates, known for their controversial geo-political spin-doctoring. Bell designed campaigns for unpopular politicians, dictators, disgraced companies, and celebrities the same way he put together product branding – by being concise and brutal. In 1987 he co-founded Bell Pottinger, which quickly became one of the most influential reputation-management companies in the world—until one of those campaigns incite racial division in South Africa and ruined Bell Pottinger’s reputation to a degree beyond spinning.

“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 harder to combat with idealism alone. Boniface soon finds that challenging strong political dynasties is putting his family at risk.

“The Letter” - Kenya

The Letter is a family portrait that ascends into a dramatic climax of Shakespearean proportions. Karisa’s city-life is interrupted when his grandma is called a witch and receives a death threat. Returning to his rural village to investigate, he finds that a frenzied mixture of consumerism and Christianity is turning hundreds of families against their elders, branding them as witches to steal their ancestral land.

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