SA film’s bumpy boom

2012-07-13 12:57

Local productions are either very dark or very silly, writes Charl Blignaut ahead of the Durban International Film Festival

More than 60 new local films, including 16 features, will premiere at the Durban International Film Festival from next week.

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

“Ja sure, our film is going places – but where is it taking us?” asked a hardened, cynical producer.

The conversation turned to what stories we are telling. To get bums on cinema seats we’re seeing a lot of copying of commercial, Westernised formats (just add a sprinkle of ubuntu). So one also wonders whose story is ­being told.

Still, government has come to the party, young blood is flowing in, output is up, co-productions are blossoming and audiences are growing.

But a black feature director is still a scarcity.

The festival will open with Elelwani, the world’s first Venda feature.

It is a magical-realist version of the world’s first Venda novel, where the protagonist must give up her education for a traditional marriage.

The festival organisers are also punting Gog’ Helen, an action comedy starring Lilian Dube.

Nigerian director Adze Ugah cut his teeth on South African TV drama and is someone to watch.

Joining these films is Sleeper’s Wake, a brave and dark choice by debut feature director Barry Berk. It’s based on a novel about a man recovering from the death of his family.

Brave and dark worked last year and proved that international art house success can be more powerful than local box-office returns, as was the case with Deon Lotz’s Skoonheid.

I’m not sure what to expect of the fourth local film in ­competition, Fynbos, a Greek co-production offering great acting.

It’ll be interesting to compare it to A Taste of Rain from rising ­producer Bridget Pickering ­(Hotel Rwanda).

I’d check out Inside Story, a pan-African soccer and HIV drama directed by Rolie Nikiwe (Intersexions) and produced by Quizzical (formerly Curious Pictures); and also Accession, about HIV and superstition.

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

And there’s One Last Look, a safari slasher; and also some thinking man’s Leon Schuster, a crime comedy in the form of Copposites.

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

The festival closes with animated feature Zambezia, which could go global. Only time will tell whether it’s a fresh local flick or a version of Disney’s version of Africa.

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