SA’s Darfur movie wins global award

2010-09-25 00:00

MAKING the festival circuit rounds ahead of its international release, the South African film Darfur has walked off with the best international film award at the New York International Film Festival.

Shot just outside Cape Town and directed by Uwe Boll, the film tells the story of six Western journalists who get caught up in atrocities perpetrated by the state-sponsored Janjaweed militia in Darfur.

This action drama, which is described as being “as gut-wrenching and brutal as it is poignant” sees international stars Billy Zane (Titanic), Kristanna Loken (Terminator 3) and Edward Furlong (American History X, Terminator) sharing screen time with local actors, inlcuding Binneland Sub Judice’s Maggie Benedict, and several Darfur refugees, who were cast in supporting roles and as extras.

“The Darfuri we cast are not actors, but you’d never guess this based on their performances. Some of their scenes are among the most moving and emotional,” says writer-producer Chris Roland. “It was important to them that this story be told truthfully. There was a lot of emotion on set.”

Generating awareness for the film has taken over a year. But for Roland and director Boll, getting their film on the big screen is about more than making a fast profit.

“A film like Darfur can’t just be thrown into the circuit, it has to be nurtured,” Roland said.

“The very real depiction is often disturbing and not for everyone, but its intended audience is growing steadily. With the current buzz circling it, we’re ready to release worldwide.

“We’ve [also] managed to set up a screening for the U.S. Congress, and we hope this influences decisions made about policy over Darfur.

“This would not have been possible had we treated the film as purely commercial.”

The slow-burn approach has also allowed the creative team to show the film at several festivals, including the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles and Victoria Film Festival in Canada, where it has received praise from Oscar-winning director Ron Howard (Angels & Demons, A Beautiful Mind) and Amnesty International.

Darfur is a co-production between Cape Town’s ZenHQ Films, owned by Roland, and Vancouver’s Event Film, owned by Boll. The main set was built in an area outside Cape Town that resembles Darfur, with additional scenes shot in the Karoo. Most of the film crew were South African.

• Darfur will be released in the United States on October 26, and then internationally, including in South Africa, towards the end of 2010. Releases have already been secured for UK, France, Germany, Spain, Benelux, Russia and Australia.

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