Local action-fuelled love story opens Durban film fest

2014-07-04 00:00

“WE will definitely be screening a film on opening night,” said a clearly ­relieved Peter Machen, manager of the Durban International Film Festival (DIFF).

This follows last year’s debacle when the festival’s opening night film, Of Good Report, had to be pulled at the last minute because the Film and Publications Board refused it a classification on the grounds it contained child ­pornography and ordered all copies to be destroyed.

The film was subsequently unbanned on appeal and after a showing at DIFF, went onto country wide ­release.

This year’s opening film, the locally made Hard To Get, directed by Zee Ntuli, and described as “an action-fuelled love story overflowing with visual poetry” looks to be a safer bet and is already scheduled for a general ­release.

The most controversial film at this year’s DIFF is likely to be the dark, erotic epic, Nymphomaniac, from the innovative Danish director Lars von Trier who has courted controversy for most of his career with films such as Breaking the Waves, Dancer in the Dark, Dogville and Antichrist.

But Machen doesn’t foresee any problems. “We have our exemption certificate from the publications board. Nymphomaniac been shown commercially around the world without any problems, plus it’s booked for a local release on the Avalon circuit.”

Last year’s festival was dogged by technical problems, with several screenings having to be cancelled as films could not be shown.

“There was a problem with DCPs [Digital Cinema Package, the files used for digital projection],” said Machen.

“This year, a technical adviser is on hand and we will have a 100% screening rate.”

The 35th edition of DIFF, Africa’s leading film festival at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Centre for Creative Arts, runs from July 17 to 27 and will see 69 feature films, 60 documentaries, 57 short films and 19 surfing films screened around Durban.

At the same time as DIFF, the city will be hosting the Durban FilmMart (DFM) from July 18 to 21 at the Elangeni Southern Sun Hotel, also the DIFF headquarters.

Another film event sees the second staging of the Simon “Mabhunu” Sabela Awards, inaugurated last year by the provincial Department of Economic Development and Tourism. The awards now fall under the responsibility of the newly established KwaZulu Natal Film Commission and will be presented at a gala event on the July 19.

A festival, a film market plus an awards ceremony point towards Durban catching up with Cape Town as a film production destination. “If you look at the number of adverts, television productions and feature films were made in Durban over last year, it’s the equivalent of what happened in the last five years,” said Machen. “There is an ongoing acceleration of movie making activity.”

OPENER: Hard to Get: This luminous debut from South African writer-director Zee Ntuli tells of TK (Pallance Dladla), a handsome young womaniser with trust issues who is thrust into Jo’burg’s underworld when he falls for Skiets (Thishiwe Ziqubu), a beautiful, reckless young woman who earns her living as a petty criminal.

CONVERSATION PIECE: Nymphomaniac: From controversial film-maker Lars von Trier, this is a much-anticipated and ambitiously explicit two-part sexual epic, as related by its central protagonist and self-diagnosed nymphomaniac, Joe. Having generated the expected debate over its graphic content, the film is more surprising and thought-provoking in its moments of humour and the complex sexuality and subjectivity afforded the female lead. Despite the many genitals on display, it is not the mechanics of the act that Von Trier mines for meaning, but rather people’s fascination with it.

RETRO: Joe Bullet: The story of a mysterious gangster who starts sabotaging soccer team The Eagles’ chance at winning the upcoming championship final. Produced in 1971, Joe Bullet was one of the first South African films featuring an all-African cast. It was banned in 1973 by the apartheid government. Now, after more than 40 years, the film has been digitally restored.

MUST-SEE: Boyhood: Filmed over a 12-year period, film-maker Richard Linklater’s (Before Sunrise) latest offering is a humanist epic of great poignancy and power, and is billed as a remarkable cinematic experience.

“Love as we know it can be challenged by elements out there in the world.”

So says director Ashan Singh of his new movie Dear Jasmine, which is currently being filmed in Durban. This movie is about lovers Ishant Kumar and Jasmine Benjamin, who are brought together by fate and heal each other as they are both troubled. Singh says the story explores human relationships and the issues between couples, as well as parent child dynamics. The script was adapted from a book written by Ashan called Love in limbo. He unfortunately never got around to finishing the book.

“The production has been a real experience, breathing life into something that was lifeless, its amazing and I’ve met so many fascinating people who are ambitious and hungry for success,” said Ashan.

The movie stars locals Tasveer Maharaj, Prelisha Somiah and Rosanna Bala. Filming started in February. The film is produced by Zahir Bassa and Nileshan Govender.

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