The invasion of the Jozi Film Festival ... at the Bioscope and in your lounge

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Jozi Film Festival founder and organiser Lisa Henry gives us the lowdown on this year’s happenings.

The ninth annual Jozi Film Festival takes place from Thursday to Sunday. Like almost all film festivals around the world, this year we are offering our audiences a virtual platform to access over 30 films selected for this year’s edition of the Jozi Film Festival. It’s exciting to be able to reach the whole country for the first time and to potentially be taking our festival in a new direction going forward.

Having said that, we are also offering limited screenings at The Bioscope Independent Cinema (now at 44 Stanley Ave). Apart from our usual mandate of showcasing both local and international films, we also want to support Joburg’s only truly independent cinema during these tough times. To that end, 100% of our ticket sales there will go to The Bioscope and we will also be giving away two private screenings to two lucky winners. Winners can have the whole cinema to themselves – or choose to share with friends and family.

While we don’t prescribe a theme each year, we have selected films that speak to the zeitgeist of the times, so although there’s no overt theme, someone who watches a few of our selections this year will see we have chosen films that speak to issues of our inequitable global society and the challenges we face in terms of creating a fairer and more sustainable world.

It’s always difficult to choose my highlights for the year because all the films selected are worthy of mention so with that disclaimer, here we go!

For those of us with itchy feet and hankering to get out into nature, watch the South African premiere of Okavango, a feature length documentary from legendary wildlife filmmakers Dereck and Beverly Joubert, and a “director’s cut”. The film is a love letter to one of the greatest river systems on the planet and explores the layers of paradise, limbo and inferno in a natural history echo of Dante’s Divine Comedy. A reminder of how diverse and delicate our ecosystems are, and how we are all connected by the health of our planet. Jaw-dropping cinematography.

Switching tack to Sifiso Khanyile’s latest documentary, A New Country, this film is a well-balanced and nuanced conversation about the failed promise of the “rainbow nation”. It also reminds us of our responsibility as citizens to be part of the process of carving ourselves the new identity so many of us long for. It is thought-provoking and 100% relevant in this turbulent point in our history.

On the international front, I was moved by the very human stories collected by filmmaker Shams Abou El Enein from the refugee camp on Samos. I’m proud that we can offer this African premiere (Samos: The Faces of Our Border) which highlights the disastrous situation of thousands of migrants stranded for years in a camp built to house a few hundred. It also gives insight into the European politics that have led to this catastrophic situation.

While many of our films deal with weighty issues, we have shorts like Ruby & Roach, an animated film about two unwanted and slightly soiled For Sale toys who escape the airport shop they have been waiting around in and embark on a brilliant adventure. We have Blast from Nigeria, about a call centre agent who is having both tummy troubles and love life issues, simultaneously. And get your tissues out for tear-jerking but inspirational Better Than Neil Armstrong from Iran. Reality and imagination intermingle as four kids mission to the moon. (All family friendly).

Lastly, I must make mention of both Kgosana Monchusi’s Opus (about a young man from the townships who inherits his father’s double bass as well as his passion for the instrument) and student film, You, Me and Everything In Between by Esther Jo Mbulawa. Set in South Africa in the turbulent 1970s, it’s a coming-of age story of a young female activist. When we make our selections each year, we are looking to promote emerging talent as much as we aim to highlight the work of established filmmakers. These two directors are ones to watch.


Book your 4-day all access pass: $7 (approximately R120) for all our 2020 films as well as a few old favourites! Visit The Bioscope’s website to book for screenings there and learn about their Covid-19 safety protocol.

Thank you to our generous sponsors and partners: Discovery Networks, Chubb, EasyEquities, Left Hand Films, CN&CO, BASA and Flow Communications. I think we all have a new appreciation of the arts after living through the first global pandemic of our lifetimes. Art moves us, teaches us new things and opens our minds.


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