Film festival: Love of film meets South African sensibility

2011-01-31 09:49

This year’s French Film Festival is just a taster of some of the great films made in the European country in the past couple of years.

The kicker is that South African filmmaker Oliver Hermanus selected the seven films that will be travelling the country – so the offerings marry a love of film with a South African sensibility.

One that is bound to cause a buzz is Black Venus, a depiction of the life of Saartjie Baartman.

The South African cultural heroine’s story is told by Frenchman Abdellatif Kechiche and features a number of South African actors in the cast, among them Andre Jacobs, who will attend the festival, as well as Jonathan Pienaar and Natania van Heerden.

Cuban actress Yahima Torres takes on the role of Baartman in this film, which set the critics overseas abuzz on the festival circuit.

During the Venice Film Festival, Variety said: “Everyone wanted the Hottentot Venus to be something she wasn’t – a savage, a princess, a freak – and by straying from the record, Kechiche forces her to become something she’d surely shy away from: the representative of racial maltreatment, a symbol rather than a person. Yet thankfully the helmer also grants her private dignity and unfathomable thoughts that defy manipulation.”

Another noteworthy film is Of Gods and Men, which, like South Africa’s Life Above All, was pipped at the post for a place in the Oscar’s Best Foreign Language Film category.

This film is the true story of the group of Cistercian monks of Tibhirine who lived in a remote part of the Algerian mountains in the 1990s.

As the Taliban starts to gain ground the monks have to decide whether to stay within the community they are nurturing and who are just as frightened of the coming violence, or to flee to their native France.

Taut, with a looming sense of doom ever present, it is a great story that Xavier Beauvois tells with skill.

The other films include Claire Denis’s White Material, which deals with France’s colonial past, as well as Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s Lorna’s Silence, a dramatic thriller about a woman who must find a way out of an untenable position.

The festival opens with On Tour, a ribald, colourful film directed by Mathieu Amalric, whom moviegoers will remember from the heartbreaking The Diving Bell and The Butterfly.

Here he leads a company of exotic dancers back to his home country of France with the promise that they can, after touring the provinces, perform in Paris.

Rounding out the films on the festival are Francois Ozon’s The Refuge and director Katell Quillevere’s debut, Love Like Poison.

The festival tours the country from February 2 to February 12, making a two-day stop in each of the five major cities.

It is in:

Cape Town from February 2 until February 4, at Labia on Orange.
Call 021-424-5927 or visit www.labia.co.za;

Durban from February 3 to February 5, at the Suncoast Casino and Alliance Francaise.
Call 031-312-9582 or 086-124-6263;

Johannesburg from February 4 to February 6, at the Alexander Theatre and Cinema Nouveau, Rosebank.
Call 011-646-1169;

Port Elizabeth from February 9 to February 11, at Alliance Francaise.
Call 041-585-7889; and

Pretoria from February 10 to February 12, at Cinema Nouveau Brooklyn. Call 012-343-6563.

» Oliver Hermanus tells 7 how he went about choosing the films for this year’s first national film festival.

See Sunday’s City Press.

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