The new South African family feature film, Felix!, which features an all-star cast that includes Joburg-born Oscar-nominee Dame Janet Suzman in her first South African film; South African Film and Television Award (SAFTA) Best Actress winner Linda Sokhulu in her feature film debut; and newcomer Hlayani Mabasa, who was cast in the title role from over 400 auditions across the country.

What’s the film about?

14-year-old Felix Xaba dreams of becoming a saxophonist like his late father, but his mother Lindiwe (Sokhulu) thinks jazz is the devil’s music. When Felix leaves his township friends to take up a scholarship at an elitist private school, he defies his mother and turns to two aging members of his father’s old band (Thapelo Mofokeng and Royston Stoffels) to help him prepare for the school jazz concert.

Described as “Billy Elliott with Cape jazz,” Felix! is based on an acclaimed script by Shirley Johnston, which won Sithengi’s 2004 Writer’s Forum Award; was a quarter-finalist in both Francis Ford Coppola’s American Zoetrope Screenplay Contest, and the Moondance Screenwriting Competition; and was a finalist in the US Specscriptacular Competition.

SAFTA Lifetime Achievement winner Roberta Durrant directed the film, her feature debut.

Natalie Haarhoff, who shot the Emmy-nominated Orphans of Nkandla and the BAFTA-nominated Lost Girls of South Africa, is the director of photography, while Kate Schalk is line producing her debut feature film.

This makes Felix! the first South African film written, directed, shot and line produced by all women since Elaine Proctor’s Kin 13 years ago.

The stellar cast includes familiar faces like Andre Jacobs, Langley Kirkwood, Nicholas Ellenbogen, Adrian Galley, Terry Norton, Andrea Dondolo and Jeanne Nielson.

Felix! is a Penguin Films production for Sabido Productions.

It’ll screen at the 34th Durban International Film Festival, which runs from July 18-28.

The Festival includes 170 theatrical screenings, a full seminar/workshop program as well as the Wavescape Film Festival and industry initiatives: the 6th Talent Campus Durban (in cooperation with the Berlin Talent Campus) and the 4th Durban FilmMart (the co-production market in partnership with the Durban Film Office), with the Wild Talk Africa Festival taking place in the city from July 23 to 26. 

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A trailer for Felix is embedded below: