Stimulating and inspiring cinema

2011-08-02 00:00

THE Iranian film, Nader and Simin, A Separation, scooped the best feature film award and a prize of R50 000, at this year’s Durban International Film Festival (Diff).

Directed by Asghar Farhadi, the film was lauded by an international jury — documentary film-maker, Flavio Florencio; documentary maker, Jahmil XT Qubeka; director and CEO of the Adelaide Film Festival, Katrina Sedgwick; film producer and arts activist, Lorna Tee; and director Mansour Sora Wade — as a masterpiece with “astonishing performances from the ensemble cast”.

Farhadi also won the award for best screenplay for his film, which traces the break-up of an Iranian family, set against the political tensions of life in contemporary Tehran.

In a message to Diff, he said he was delighted that his film had achieved success at the festival, adding: “I’m glad that my film was able to communicate with people living thousands of kilometres away from my country. I believe the best language for understanding is cinema.”

Andrey Zvyangintsev’s film, Elena, was another big winner at the awards ceremony, which was held at Suncoast Supernova, on Sunday.

The film — which won the prize for best ­director, best actress for Nadezhda Markina, and best cinematography for Mikhail ­Krichman — is the third by the acclaimed ­Russian director, and tells the story of a ­middle-aged wife and mother who marries a wealthy but emotionally crippled man, who she nursed back to health.

Matthew Gordon’s The Dynamiter won two prizes at the festival — best first feature film and best actor for William Patrick Ruffin.

Speaking at the ceremony, Gordon said it was a “miracle to be here in the first place”, adding: “To be in this category [Diff competition features], is incredible … and to win is such an honour, it’s amazing.”

The film, set in rural Mississippi, is a ­coming-of-age drama about a 14-year-old boy who looks after his grandmother and younger stepbrother, while engaging in petty theft to get by.

But not all the prizes headed overseas — ­Oliver Hermanus, director of Skoonheid, took home the prize for the best South African ­feature film and a cheque for R25 000, and was also given a special mention by the jury in the category best feature film. It’s the second time that Hermanus has won an award at Diff. He previously enjoyed success with Shirley Adams in 2009.

“DIFF was the first festival I came to as a film-maker and an audience member. It is very special to me as it is my home festival,” he said.

Skoonheid, which tells the story of a closeted married man who finds himself attracted to the son of old family friends, won the Queer Palm Award at this year’s Cannes Film Festival in France.

In the category, best South African feature film, Eldorado, directed by Shaldon Ferris and Lorreal Ferris, was given a special mention by the jury, while the feature-film audience award went to The First Grader, directed by Justin Chadwick, which tells the inspiring ­story of an 84-year-old man who enrols in a Kenyan ­primary school to learn to read and write. Speaking at the awards producer, Anant Singh said: “The First Grader is inspirational, and proves the old ­adage that you can never be too old to learn.”

In the documentary section, the Amnesty ­International Durban Human Rights Award, and a prize of €2 500, went to the South ­African entry, Sobukwe, A Great Soul, directed by Mickey Madoda Dube.

The film celebrates the life of one of the country’s unsung heroes, and Dube said he hoped that his film had helped to rekindle his lost voice. He added: “I’m sure that wherever he is, Sobukwe is smiling.”

The prize for the best documentary went to Position Among the Stars (Stand van de ­Sterren). D irected by Leonard Retel Helmrich, the film follows the lives of an Indonesian family living in the slums in Jakarta.

Winning the prize for best South African documentary was Dear Mandela, directed by Dara Kell and Christopher Nizz. The film ­examines the shack clearances in Durban, and meets the people who feel betrayed by the ANC.

Kell said they were honoured to receive the award, adding: “We would like to dedicate this to all the shack dwellers who were brave enough to share their stories with us.”

The documentary audience award was won by Fire in Babylon, directed by Stevan Riley, which tells the story of the West Indies 20-year domination of cricket, from the late seventies to the early nineties.

Other winners were Dirty Laundry, directed by Stephen Abbott, which won both the best short-film and best South African short-film awards; and A Deeper Shade Of Blue, directed by Jack McCoy, which won the Diff ­Wavescape Surf Film Festival audience award.

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