8 critically acclaimed French movies premièring at Diff 2024

A scene from “Dahomey”. Picture: Supplied.

A scene from “Dahomey”. Picture: Supplied.

Published Jul 10, 2024


Eight French movies will premier at the 45th Durban International Film Festival (Diff), with support from the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs and the French Institute, with IFAS and Alliance française in Durban.

The movies, which sheds light on the global realities of migration, restitution, and revolution, have featured at the Oscars and leading global film festivals such as Tiff, Berlinale, Cannes and Venice.

David Martinon, French ambassador to South Africa, Lesotho and Malawi, said that France was dedicated to promoting Francophone cinema on the global stage as a means of cultural exchange, highlighting the power of storytelling to connect and spark meaningful conversations.

“The French Focus forms part of a larger project which includes a scouting delegation of French experts coming to Durban and Cape Town, as well as support for the incubation of filmmakers through the Jumpstart programme at Durban Film Mart.”

Kicking off the line-up is “Dahomey”, a thrilling documentary that delves into the history of the Kingdom of Dahomey, now Benin. French-Senegalese filmmaker, Mati Diop documents the return of plundered artefacts to their place of origin.

This insightful and meditative portrait of the restoration of African treasures was shown in the main competition at the 74th Berlin International Film Festival, where it won the Golden Bear.

“Coconut Head Generation”, directed by Alain Kassanda, is an invigorating observational documentary that showcases the brilliance and resilience of young Nigerians at the University of Ibadan, who come together despite individual and collective struggles to create a space for themselves and reclaim their power.

They discuss subjects such as feminism, migration, human rights, colonialism and politics.

“Coconut Head Generation”. Picture: Supplied.

In the years that Kassanda filmed, from 2019 to 2021, students and their peers took to the barricades to resist police violence. This film, which shared the top prize at Cinéma du Réel, is a dynamic portrait of a generation of Nigerians using their intelligence and critical thinking to demand change.

The Oscar-nominated “Four Daughters”, is also on the line-up. Olfa Hamrouni’s two eldest daughters disappeared in 2015 leaving her and her two youngest daughters heartbroken and grief-stricken.

“Four Daughters”. Picture: Supplied.

In a bid to piece together their story, Ben Hania invites professional actors to play the roles of the missing sisters. As the intimate tableau of a family torn apart is recreated, Olfa and her two daughters negotiate their personal trauma and loss.

This is a story of hope, rebellion, violence, transmission and sisterhood that will question the very foundations of our societies.

“Disco Afrika: A Malagasy Story” premiered at the Marrakech Film Festival and at the 74th Berlinale, where it received an honourable mention.

“Disco Afrika: A Malagasy Story”. Picture: Supplied.

The story follows Kwame, a young miner who flees to his home village after an unforeseen tragedy. Once home, he must contend with the undeniable corruption of his country, his loyalty to those he cares for, and his grief, while doing his best to balance it all.

“The Story of Souleymane”, which was awarded the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize and the Un Certain Regard Performance Prize at the recent Cannes festival, follows Souleymane, an undocumented Guinean delivery biker and asylum seeker who has followed his dream to Paris.

Souleymane Sangare, a recent arrival in Paris from Guinea, sleeps in homeless shelters at night and works as a delivery biker by day. Picture: Instagram

He balances his precarious employment and the complexities of preparing for his interview with the government to determine his status. In sharing his story, he could be sharing the story of one of the many others who have fled countries torn by conflict in search of a better life.

“We Imagine As Light” is a glorious rendition of the beauty of Mumbai by night. The lives and loves of two nurses are thrown together by circumstance, and we follow their delicate journey of friendship through the bustling city streets.

The decision to return to their mutual birthplace, Kerala, gives rise to some unexpected realisations, an imagination of light and a future that neither had dared to dream of.

“We Imagine As Light”. Picture: Supplied.

Lkhagvadulam Purev-Ochir’s feature debut, “City of Wind”, follows 17-year-old Ze (Tergel Bold-Erdene), who lives between two worlds. One where he is a diligent student, falling in love with a girl, the other, a shaman for his village in Mongolia.

“City of Wind”. Picture: Supplied.

“City of Wind” is a gorgeously shot exploration of a child poised on the edge of adulthood as he navigates the tension between staying true to his own desires and honouring his duties.

The final film on offer is “The Voice of Others”, directed by Fatima Kaci. It earned Kaci the top honour in 2023, where she received the Lights on Women Award.

“The Voice of Others”. Picture: Supplied.

The topical film follows Rim, a Tunisian interpreter who assists migrants with asylum procedures in France. Each day as she translates the stories of exiled men and women she is forced to confront her own history.

∎ The Durban International Film Festival will take place from July 18 to 28 at commercial venues like NuMetro Pavilion, Ster-Kinekor, Suncoast CineCentre, The Bioscope (Johannesburg) and The Labia (Cape Town). The non-commercial venues include Cap Studios, Denis Hurley Centre, Luthuli Museum, K-Cap and Wushwini Art Centre.

Festival passes are available at Webtickets. Single tickets, for each film, are also available at R80 at each cinema.