BY BILLY SUTER
THE 10-day Durban Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, now in its seventh year at the KZNSA Gallery in Glenwood and other venues, will expand its reach with two evening screenings at Tina’s Hotel, Beryldene Road, Kloof, on August 31 and September 1.
Seven feature films, 11 documentaries and almost 30 short films from 14 countries globally, including South Africa, have been secured for the festival which runs from August 25 to September 3, and expects to speak to the interests of many different audiences, says the event’s director, Jason Fiddler.
From both a practical and demand-driven perspective, the festival has recognised that for many, the journey to “town” is both expensive and often far. It is for this reason that Fiddler has successfully negotiated with Tina’s Hotel, home to Roland Stansell’s Kloof branch of The Rhumbelow Theatre, to host the two evening screenings.
The festival venues this year will include the aha Waterfront Hotel & Spa in the Point area, Alliance Francaise and the Durban Lesbian & Gay Centre in Morningside, as well as the KZNSA Gallery in Glenwood.
Included in the two-night Tina’s Hotel line up are the Argentinean drama Bromance, a film about three friends who realise they have grown as young men and that their relationship is devolving on a weekend getaway at the beach; and the powerful South African feature, Inxeba (The Wound), a multi-award-winning story about a gay relationship pitted against the traditional Xhosa coming-of-age ceremony.
Securing Inxeba (The Wound) for the festival has made Fiddler proud and happy.
“I’ve known about the film as a project since the 2014 Durban Film Mart, when producer Elias Ribeiro was pitching it as a project for financing. I told him there and then I wanted it for the festival one day. Our audiences deserved to see a great, locally made film that spoke to their own experiences, that shared their own stories.
“Elias’s earlier gay short films had been included in our previous festivals, so I knew he would be keen to maintain that relationship.
“I just did not anticipate what an insanely huge deal this would be! Growing social media attention of the film has led to some very strong calls for protest, as some in the Xhosa community and elsewhere have deemed the film a serious issue for them, bordering on cultural exploitation.
Amidst sporadic calls for boycott, and some reports of threats to cast members, Fiddler is pragmatic: “The country is still very naïve when it comes to our rights to freedom of expression, of protection against discrimination. The constitution is there for a very good reason: to work against hegemony, hatred and homophobia.
“Whilst I am deeply concerned that the intolerance and aggression displayed by some is very real, I also expect that many detractors haven’t actually seen this powerful piece of cinema. We must have the space to express our creativity, artistry and views frankly and without intimidation.
“It’s just typical that instead of acknowledging the existence of very real gay relations in all our societies, that men who have sex with men do exist, focus is immediately shifted as if this is attacking one group, and it falsely presumes a challenge to African cultural beliefs. I sincerely don’t believe this to be the case.”
Also on the festival bill are Boys For Sale (an adults-only feature documentary that looks at straight, gay-for-pay escorts in Japan’s oldest red light district) and Something Like Summer, said to be a surprisingly complex comedy-musical about two high school boys whose whirlwind romance goes awry, and who find one another very different people years later.
Fiddler has also curated two sets of short films for Kloof audiences. Running for 67 minutes, Lesbian Shorts includes three short films – Lily from Ireland, The Masterful Hermit from Wales and The Pretty Things Are Going to Hell from Denmark – that explore tender relationships, old flames that turn up unexpectedly and the pain of parting.
Spanish Gay Shorts (running for 54 minutes) includes a trio of Spanish-language short films that explore the bisexual feelings of a man between his girlfriend and his best friend (Goldfish, from Mexico), the very real matter of a couple who need to frankly discuss their sex life having been involved for some time (Versatile from Spain), and how little white lies can make for hilarious complications with grandma on your wedding day (The Marriage from Spain).
Fiddler encourages mainstream audiences who love good cinema to attend the festival.
“Ours is an inclusive festival. You don’t have to be gay or lesbian, or otherwise, to appreciate these well-made films. You just need to be open-minded, and make the effort to discover new stories.”
Further information about film titles and screening times is available on the festival website at http://www.dglff.org.za