5 films to change the world

2014-09-28 15:00

The annual Tri Continental Human Rights Film Festival has kicked off with a fascinating line-up of documentaries. Roger Young chooses the best on offer

The focus at the Tri Continental Film Festival, like most local festivals this year, is on the documentary. Whether it’s because ­fictional forms have become largely predictable and unsatisfying or because digital ­technology is allowing film makers unprecedented access and artistry, documentary films are experiencing a vibrant and exciting growth spurt. Here are five that you absolutely have to see.

1 Ukraine Is Not a Brothel


(Directed by Kitty Green/Ukraine, Australia/2013)

Exploring the controversial Ukrainian feminist group Femen, famous for their topless protests, Green offers a unique view into its strategies and ­approaches to feminism. She examines the dissonance of using naked bodies to protest against the commodification of naked bodies, the internal conflicts of Femen, the paradox of it ­being an organisation led by a man, and the women of Femen’s simultaneous radical ­nature and lack of freedom within the ­Ukrainian system. Deeply personal and ­feverishly political.

2 God Loves Uganda


(Directed by Roger Ross Williams/USA/2013)

Chilling and devastatingly thorough, this award-winning exposé peels away the layers of high-minded religious imperialism that led to Uganda’s anti-homosexuality laws. The film tracks the American right wing group International House Of Prayer’s outreach programme, and how its core ­belief that poverty is God’s punishment for sins of the flesh is fanning the flames of hate crimes, glossing over colonial responsibility and making some people very, very rich. Directed with a surgeon’s precision, Williams has made a stunning documentary of the terrible consequences of religious voluntourism.

3 Return to Homs


(Directed by Talal Derki/Syria/2013)

In the midst of Syria’s civil war, Basset, a 19-year-old footballer, and his 24-year-old friend Ossama, a media activist, question their belief in revolution through peaceful means as their city is shelled. Taking the form of a personal narrative, Derki followed the two protagonists from 2011 to 2013 through the ­mechanics of their daily lives in the city of Homs as the Syrian army pitilessly pounds them.

4 Crumbs: Toppling the Bread Cartel


(Directed by Richard Finn Gregory/SA/2013)

The story of the bread price-fixing scandal and its consequences. This film follows bread distributor ­Imraahn Mukaddam’s journey after he discovers that companies are colluding to inflate the price of bread, through to the loss of his business and personal turmoil as he faces off against the corporates. Crumbs charts the ­ongoing legal battle of Mukaddam and his tiny legal team’s attempts to launch a class action lawsuit. In-your-face film making from Gregory makes for a gripping film about an issue that goes to the bedrock of social division and poverty in South Africa.

5 Unearthed: Fracking in the ­Karoo


(Directed by Jolynn Minnaar/SA/2014)

Taking the form of a first-person narrative, Minnaar’s film travels from optimism to horror and finally to activism. When fracking was first proposed as a solution to unemployment in the arid Karoo, it held promise, but when Minnaar discovers that fracking has led to water contamination in Pennsylvania, she is drawn into an investigation that takes her across the US – the home of fracking technology – where she discovers ground water that catches fire and tap water that leaks dangerous gasses. Minnaar sets off to share her findings in the small towns dotting the Karoo, and faces bureaucratic indifference and avoidance.

The festival runs until October 6 at ­Cinema Nouveau in Rosebank, Joburg, and the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town. Visit 3continentsfestival.co.za for details

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