Lost Tongue

The 37th Durban International Film Festival has officially kicked off in Durban, South Africa, offering another diverse slate, showcasing independent African and international film. It will unfold across 15 venues throughout the city and its outlying areas from June 16-26.

In a necessary new move, the festival added a number of new venues to further increase its footprint into areas that don’t usually have access to formal cinemas. The festival has also increased its presence on the commercial circuit, with Nu Metro Pavilion being added to its roster of venues.

The festival kicked off its 40th anniversary last night, June 16, with the World Premiere of the South African documentary, “The Journeymen,” directed by Sean Metelerkamp and produced by Jolynn Minnaar, whose film, “Unearthed,” was one of the big hits at DIFF 2014.


Filmed in 2014, the year in which South Africa celebrated 20 years of democracy and mourned Nelson Mandela’s death, “The Journeymen” chronicles the experiences of three young South African photographers as they travel in a motorhome through South Africa, with GoPro cameras strapped to their chests. From urban sprawls to dusty rural roads, the trio were driven by the question “Has Mandela’s vision of equality in a rainbow nation been achieved?” The film answers this with a kaleidoscopic set of responses that are disturbing, beautiful, thought-provoking and, more than anything, movingly surreal.

With just under half of all the films originating from Africa, this year’s festival once again celebrates and honors the rich, ever-evolving language of African cinema. Of the 101 feature-length films to be shown at the festival, 74 are African films (of which 24 are South African), including 27 fiction films and 23 documentaries. Additionally, the festival’s program includes more than 90 short films, the majority of which are African-produced.

Key titles include “The Revolution Won’t Be Televised,” from Rama Thiaw – a smart and insightful documentary that sheds light on political resistance in Senegal; “Naked Reality,” the latest film from provocative Cameroonian filmmaker Jean-Pierre Bekolo, whjch challenges the status quo and questions those in power; “Nakom” is a haunting film about the conflict between tradition, modernity and love; “Ghostland” chronicles the loss of language and identity of indigenous Nambian people; and “Nawara,” from Egypt’s Hala Khalil, is a biting social commentary on Egypt’s classist society. Then there is “I Shot Bi Kidude,” the long awaited feature film about African musical legend Bi Kidude, by British filmmaker Andy Jones; and “Independence” from Mário Bastos, which chronicles the Angolan liberation struggle.


South African features films include “Shepherds and Butchers” from filmmaker Oliver Schmitz – based on the book written by Chris Marnewick, and produced by Videovision Entertainment. The film which won the audience award at Berlin had a special gala screening today, June 17.

Other South African films include “Endless River,” the latest from South African auteur Oliver Hermanus; “Kalushi,” which chronicles the story of Solomon Mahlangu; the mockumentary “Wonderboy for President” starring Kagiso Lediga, and directed by John Barker; and “Tess” from previous DIFF winner Meg Rickards, which follows the story of a sassy twenty year-old prostitute on the streets of Cape Town.

South African documentaries include “Alison,” a deeply personal account of a woman who endures unimaginable suffering but refuses to become a victim; “Action Commandant” which tells the untold story of slain South African liberation fighter, Ashley Kriel; “Lost Tongue,” which introduces us to Helena Steenkamp, a San woman from the Kalahari who embarks on a mission to revive the endangered language of her people; and “Nobody Died Laughing,” a documentary about Pieter-Dirk Uys, one of South Africa’s most prolific writers, satirists and activists.

A feature length documentary exploring the final chapter in the life of one of the World’s great musical heroines.

In addition to the strong African focus, other key areas include a showcase of films on issues around indigenous rights and colonialism, a small program of films that deal with HIV (given the fact that the World Aids Conference will be taking place in Durban two weeks after the festival ends), and a rich program of films about dance and music.

This year’s edition also includes a country focus on Dutch cinema offering a cross-section of contemporary cinema curated by Gertan Zuilhof of the Rotterdam Film Festival, in recognition of the Dutch-South African Co-production Treaty.

DIFF 2016 also includes a retrospective look at Portuguese-language African film in partnership with Tri Continental Film Festival.

As has been the case for 37 years, the festival will also present an eclectic selection of film from around the world.

DIFF partners for the 11th year with Wavescape to present a showcase of surfing cinema from around the world. Wavescape opens with a free outdoor screening at the Bay of Plenty Lawns on Sunday June 19, before moving to the new venue at Rivertown Beerhall from June 20 to 26.

The 9th Talents Durban – in co-operation with Berlinale Talents – brings together the creativity of 20 selected filmmakers from across Africa, who will take part in a series of masterclasses, workshops and industry networking opportunities during the festival. Supported by the German Embassy and Goethe-Institut, Talents Durban creates a space for filmmakers to hone their skills, develop collaborations and network with other future leaders of the film industry in Africa, and the world.

Now in its 7th year, the Durban FilmMart, a partnership project with the Durban Film Office, and supported by the City of Durban, is a film finance and co-production market presented in three strands – Finance Forum, Master Classes, and the Africa in Focus seminars. Nineteen selected African projects (9 fiction features and 10 documentaries) will hold one-on-one meetings with potential financiers, co-producers, and distributors in the Finance Forum. The DFM master class and networking program is open to registered delegates only. See www.durbanfilmmart.co.za for further details.

New venues this year include the Playhouse, Nu Metro (Westville Pavilion), Rivertown Beerhall and numerous outreach venues in Umlazi, Clermont and Inanda. Other venues include Ster Kinekor Musgrave, Ster Kinekor Cinema Nouveau, the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, the KZNSA Gallery, eKhaya MultiArts Centre, Luthuli Museum in Groutville and the Elangeni-Maharani Hotel, with festival hubs at the Elangeni-Maharani and the Playhouse.

Program booklets with the full screening schedule and synopses of all the films will be available for free at cinemas, and other public information outlets. For more info go to www.durbanfilmfest.co.za where you’ll find the full festival program.

The 37th Durban International Film Festival is organised by the Centre for Creative Arts at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, with support from the National Film and Video Foundation, Durban Film Office, KwaZulu-Natal Film Commission, eThekwini Municipality, the German Embassy, Goethe Institut, KwaZulu-Natal Department of Arts and Culture and a range of other valued partners.