The 10 best?.?.?.SA films at the Durban International Film Festival

2013-07-14 14:00

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Charl Blignaut and Percy Mabandu check out the new local documentaries and features on offer at SA’s top film festival

1 Of Good Report

The film selected to open this year’s festival is a story about a small-town high school teacher who has an illicit affair with a teenage pupil.

People who have already seen this third film of South African film director Jahmil Qubeka say he has upped his game, especially when it comes to cinematic treatment and sound.

It looks dark and broody – as many of our films are – and is sold as “a journey into the soul of a mentally troubled man”.

2 Khumba

The winner of best film at last year’s Durban International Film Festival was an animated 3D feature from Cape Town titled Adventures in Zambezia.

It has gone on to become South Africa’s most successful film ever in the international market. This year, Triggerfish offer their latest – Khumba, the story of a zebra born with half his stripes. “Lion King meets Chicken Run” is its pitch. We hear they’ve taken it to the next level.

3 The Devil’s Lair

The documentary that everyone is talking about is a look into the world of an aging Cape Flats gang leader, Braam, of The Nice Time Kids.

His plans for escaping a life of poverty have still not and probably will never come to fruition. What role does destiny play in a life of violence?

By stripping away the usual sensationalist glamour that Hollywood has lent to the image of gangsters, this film exposes a human core tale and asks questions about poverty, hope and freedom.

4 Layla Fourie

The jury is out on Layla Fourie, a local co-production with Germany offering that rare creature – a successful South African female director, Pia Marais.

Early reviews praise her ability to present textured, layered social images from a new perspective in telling the story of a lie detector tester and single mother who herself becomes a suspect in a crime. It questions what the truth is in a post-apartheid South Africa governed by fear.

They’re calling it “an existential thriller”.

5 Orania

Numerous awards have come the way of Orania, a film about the Afrikaner cultural enclave in Northern Cape.

A German production, it’s not strictly a local film, but it makes the pick because its subject matter certainly is. Tobias Lindner and Sascha Supastrapong bring an extraordinarily objective camera to the town, finding unexpected characters to drive the story.

It creeps up on you weeks after you’ve seen it.

6 The Forgotten Kingdom

A surprise hit on international festivals, garnering numerous audience awards. This quest film is one of the first features to be shot in neighbouring Lesotho. It tells the story of Atang, a young man who returns to his remote village and reunites with his childhood sweetheart, Dineo.

Scenic and gentle, we are told it offers surprising depth as the story unfolds. It sports a strong cast known mainly for their roles on TV.

7 Mapantsula

If you’ve never seen this iconic 1980s film on the big screen, then book for it right away. Legendary director Oliver Schmitz tackles the notion that the personal is the political in his story of a petty gangster named Panic.

The smart-dressing, fast-talking hustler inevitably becomes caught up in the growing anti-apartheid struggle.

The film studies his dilemmas as he has to choose between pursuing his individual gain and a united stand against the system.

8 Jeppe on a Friday

Another documentary attracting attention, this “part travelogue, part urban allegory” is the story of a Joburg neighbourhood.

It “unites eight people’s ambitions, desires and struggles to survive over the course of a Friday”, according to the film makers. The feature takes us on a rollicking look at a diverse group of people surviving in a changing African metropolis.

The hope and despair, along with the comic banality of life in the city, is explored.

9 Norman Catherine’s Curriculum Vitae

This mix of ghoulish animation, live action and stock footage drawn from Norman Catherine’s body of work is used to bring to life the artist’s canvas.

Coloured by vivid imagination and a uniquely offbeat style, the film illustrates events from his formative years – such as swallowing mothballs thinking they were sweets – against a backdrop of South African and world events. Intriguing and humorous, this is a complicated film on a complicated man.

10 Durban Poison

We’ve waited 27 years for this feature from cult director Andrew Worsdale. His debut – a University of California, Los Angeles, graduate thesis film called Shot Down – was banned in South Africa, which made it famous in the rest of the world. He returns with a “noir romance set among the marginalised white underclass”.

It’s a kind of South African Bonnie and Clyde, telling the true story of Charmaine Phillips and Piet Grundlingh, outlawed lovers accused of murder.

Durban Poison

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