SA films shine at festivals

A scene from the local western, Five Fingers for Marseilles, which could be in contention for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.


THE fifth Ugu Film Festival on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast will open on Thursday, September 21, with a screening, at Wild Coast Casino, of Isivivane sikaShaka, a local film produced and directed by Port Shepstone-based filmmakers.

The festival, running until September 24, has as official venues the Margate Hotel, Desroches Hotel, Ndunu Hall, St Mike’s Beach and Stages Restaurant. It will include industry workshops and screenings at surrounding townships and rural areas.

Isivivane sikaShaka, a retelling of the King Shaka story, is described by festival founder and curator Senzo Zindela as a micro-budget film that is the inspiration of this year’s festival theme, Unity is Power.

“Books have been written about King Shaka, but most have twisted facts. This documentary goes deep and unpacks unknown things. It was produced as a community project in which all stakeholders contributed what they could to make it a success,” adds Zindela.

“The good thing about it is that it is starring up-and-coming actors from UMthwalume. It is a well-crafted doccie that must not be missed.”

Vaya, directed by Akin Omotoso, will close the Ugu Film Festival with a September 24 screening at St Michael’s Beach. It scooped the Best South African Feature Film award at the recent Durban International Film Festival.

The film interweaves three separate plots, which intersect and intertwine in a gripping, moving and often funny narrative about struggling for survival and dignity in the city.

Among other films to be screened at the festival are Mbongeni Ngema’s Asinamali and Bad Genius, produced locally by a Thai crew. Also confirmed is Unknown, a micro-budget film produced by local film makers.

Outreach visits and screenings will take place at Gamalakhe Hall, Umthwalume Hall and Margate Library at 2pm daily, from September 22 to 24. Visit the Ugu Film Festival website for the full festival programme (

In other local film news, Five Fingers for Marseilles, a contemporary South African western set in the rugged badlands of the Eastern Cape, will screen for seven days at Ster-Kinekor Tygervalley in Cape Town soon.

This is to ensure the film is eligible for submission for the 2018 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. The Academy stipulates that a film must play theatrically for seven consecutive days to qualify for entry.

The film is currently in official competition at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), running until September 17, where it also had its world premiere.

This is a massive achievement for a local film. TIFF is one of the largest publicly attended film festivals in the world, attracting more than 480 000 people annually.

Five Fingers for Marseilles will be released in South Africa by Indigenous Film Distribution.

“This exceptional film is unique and different in the way it redefines the western genre for a new age,” says Helen Kuun, chief executive e of Indigenous Film Distribution. “We encourage local audiences to catch it on the big screen while they can, and to play their part in getting it to the Oscars.”

Directed by Michael Matthews and written by Sean Drummond, Five Fingers for Marseilles is a predominantly Sotho, western-inspired tale of an outlaw who returns home after years on the run, and finds a chance for redemption.

“Although a local film, the global attention for Five Fingers for Marseilles is due to a universal story executed at the highest levels,” says producer Asger Hussain.

“A daring narrative like this is a rare combination of filmmakers, cast and crew coming together, working under gruelling conditions to bring to life a singular vision. We hope this film will serve as future inspiration for what’s achievable in independent filmmaking.”

Vuyo Dabula heads an all-star cast that includes Hamilton Dhlamini, Zethu Dlomo, Kenneth Nkosi, Mduduzi Mabaso, Aubrey Poolo, Lizwi Vilakazi, Warren Masemola, Dean Fourie, Anthony Oseyemi, Brendon Daniels and Jerry Mofokeng.

The film also features people from Eastern Cape communities in supporting roles, and introduces to the big screen Toka Mtabane, Vuyo Novokoza, Ntsika Tiyo, Sibusiso Bottoman, Abongile Sithole, and Qhawe Soroshi.

It tells the story of how, 20 years ago, the young ‘Five Fingers’ fought for the rural town of Marseilles, against brutal police oppression. Now, after fleeing in disgrace, Tau returns, seeking peace. Finding the town under new threat, he must reluctantly fight to free it. Will the Five Fingers stand again?

Following the TIFF premiere, US movie blog The Film Stage said of the film, “Everything you want from a western thematically is present, with arch stereotypes of good and evil prevalent but never detrimental to the characters.

Canadian film reviewer Edgar Chaput wrote” “Lovers of westerns and action films should rejoice at what director Matthews, his crew and cast have delivered. Their efforts result in more than a curiosity, but an accomplishment as far as extending the breadth of a genre goes.”

Five Fingers for Marseilles was awarded Best South African Film in Development at the Durban FilmMart’s finance forum in 2013.

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