DIFF: 5 best SA films

2014-07-13 15:00

South African documentaries are rising fast at the Durban International Film Festival, but fiction features are still the most popular with viewers. Here are the five local features that you absolutely cannot miss this year:

Cold Harbour/Directed by Carey McKenzie

This bleak crime thriller has been labelled unrelentingly pessimistic in early reviews. It revolves around a Khayelitsha policeman, Sizwe Miya (Tony Kgoroge in what is said to be a stellar performance). His attempts to solve a murder lead him into a maze of smuggling rings operated by South Africa’s Chinese resident population. First, it’s black market abalone and then narcotics, a trail that leads him back to his own troubled past. Produced by Tendeka Matatu, who brought us Jerusalema, and with music by Spoek Mathambo and Chris Letcher, it’s another genre exercise that has the potential to rise above repetition by way of its reframing in the South African context.


Future sound of Mzansi/Directed by Spoek Mathambo and Lebogang Rasethaba

Spoek Mathambo is a mischievous musical magpie. There, I said it. His entire output has been a grab bag of South African, Pan-African, intercontinental sounds. The idea of him making a film about a country still steeped in poverty, crime and injustice by examining its explosion of new sounds is so deeply exciting that I cannot begin to tell you. Here’s a list: glitch-hop, sghubu sapitori, durban qhum, dubstep and shangaan electro. Here’s another: Aero Manyelo, Black Coffee, Christian Tiger School, Felix Laband, John Wizards, Sibot, DJ Spoko and Zaki Ibrahim. Sold, right?


Hard to get/Directed by Zee Ntuli

If Hard To Get wasn’t the opening film this year, I would have probably skimmed it over, but last year’s opening is an indication that festival manager Peter Machen’s choices are to be trusted. The trailer paints the film as a Bonnie and Clyde meets Joburg crime roller coaster. It’s visually impressive and the young cast looks set to deliver. Thishiwe Ziqubu, in particular, is an actress on the rise. Genre transplanting has long been the bane of local films, but Hard To Get has the potential to pull it off, à la Viva Riva! However, a ludicrous slow-mo intro shot in the trailer leaves me on the fence.


Love the one you love/Directed by JennaCatoBass

Bass has a string of genre-hopping short films behind her, and her feature development project Flatland, a feminist Karoo Western, is gathering speed. Bass made this film from the desire to pioneer a new form of low- budget film making. Everything about it appeals, from its early Hong Kong director Wong Kar-Wai aesthetic, to its aspiration to be a meditation on “the ideals we hold too sacred: love, happiness and the New South Africa”, and a story line that follows a sex-line operator, a dog handler and a computer technician.


Thina Sobabili (The two of us)/Directed by Ernest Nkosi

Advance reviews on Nkosi’s debut have been glowing. Hagen Engler at Mahala calls it “crisp, beautifully composed cinema with a haunting score and great performances”. Thulas and Zanele are a brother and sister living together in Alex who are forced to look after each other when their grandmother dies. Thulas turns to crime while becoming increasingly protective of his sister. When Zanele falls for an older man, he is determined to stop the relationship. Thina Sobabili has an impressive visual approach and might just be the surprise of the festival.


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