Local films bloom in Durban

2012-07-17 11:13

More than 60 new local films, including 16 features, will premiere at the Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) from Thursday this week.

It’s a new record for the important showcase and it says local film is set to boom.

“Ja sure, our film is going places – but where is it taking us?” said a hardened producer to me in a bar the other night.

The conversation turned to what stories we are telling.

To get bums on seats we’re seeing a lot of copying of commercial, westernised formats (just add a sprinkle of ubuntu).

One wonders whose story is actually being told.

The truth is that a typical local feature shoot is still a white crew with a black cast.

Still, our film is rising.

Government has come to the party, young blood is flowing in from film schools, output is up, co-productions are blossoming and audiences are growing.

But a black feature director remains a scarcity. The festival will open with Elelwani.

The world’s first Venda feature is a magic realist update of the world’s first Venda novel by TN Maumela, published in 1954.

Florence Masebe plays Elelwani, who must give up her education for a traditional marriage.

The film is directed by award-winning Ntshavheni wa Luruli.

The teaser released this week offers some distinctly beautiful visuals but no clue about whether we’re in for a groundbreaker or not.

The festival’s also punting Gog’ Helen, an action comedy with Lilian Dube.

Nigerian director Adze Ugah cut his teeth on SA TV drama and may still be a little rough, but is someone to watch.

Hopefully his dramatic romp to retrieve a mattress stuffed with money isn’t too silly and slapstick.

Joining these films in official competition at DIFF is Sleeper’s Wake.

It is a brave and dark choice by debut feature director Barry Berk, based on a novel about a man recovering from the death of his family.

Brave and dark worked for Oliver Hermanus’s Skoonheid last year and proved that international art house success can be more powerful than local box office returns.

I’m not sure what to expect of the fourth local film in competition, Fynbos, a Greek co-production offering great acting against the “harsh but beautiful” SA landscape.

It’ll be interesting to compare it to A Taste of Rain, set on a Namibian desert farm from rising producer Bridget Pickering (Hotel Rwanda).

On my lengthy list of local features to check out is Inside Story, a pan-African soccer and HIV drama directed by Rolie Nikiwe (Intersexions) and produced by Quizzical (formerly Curious).

HIV and Aids are strong themes in our cinema and have yielded international success.

A new generation seems to be intent on proving that issues can be tackled in fresh and compelling ways.

Another film on my list is Accession, about HIV and superstition by the edgy Michael J Rix. His dark, scruffy claymation feature Tengers had Durban talking in 2008.

Zama Zama is a dark thriller about illegal mining from Vickus Strijdom and Uhlanga The Mark a tale of a rural boy with supernatural powers, lovingly developed within the community by Ndaba ka Ngwane.

Relevant? Sure.

Entertaining? Sure.

In one film? We’ll have to wait and see.

Genre flicks continue their rise.

There’s One Last Look, a safari slasher, opening late in the festival.

And there are two cop comedies.

A thinking man’s Schuster, Copposites, is a Freaky Friday crime comedy starring national darling Rob van Vuuren.

Blitz Patrollie is an action comedy written by Kagiso Lediga and starring comedians Joey Rasdien and David Kau as two cops stationed in downtown Joburg.

It seems we’re mainly very dark or very silly in this Gemini state of ours.

DIFF closes with the animated feature Zambezia.

Jock of the Bushveld earned R12 million at the local box office and the animation here looks way better, so Zambezia could go global.

Whether it’s a fresh South African flick or a version of Disney’s version of Africa only time will tell.

» This is an updated version of the story first published in City Press on July 15


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