Durban Film Festival programme

Laura Dern (left) heads the cast of The Tale, directed by Jennifer Fox. The film chronicles one woman’s powerful investigation into her own childhood memories as she is forced to re-examine her first sexual experience.


SOME 180 feature films, documentaries and shorts have been selected for the 39th Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) which runs from July 19 to 29 in various venues,

The leading event of its kind on the African continent, the festival also offers an insightful industry programme that includes Isisphethu, for emerging and micro-budget filmmakers, and the 11th Talents Durban, in partnership with Berlinale Talents, for pre-selected, semi-established  filmmakers. Another sideline highlight is  the 9th Durban FilmMart, the festival’s partner programme with the Durban Film Office.

Opening the festival will be a feature film from South African director Jerome Pikwane, the horror flick The Tokoloshe. The LGTBI love-story Rafiki, directed by Kenyan Wanuri Kahiu, has been selected to close the festival.

The manager of DIFF Chipo Zhou, explains the choice of these two diverse films that have women as their focus. “We wanted to book-end DIFF with films that tell stories about women, their strength and their resilience. We also want to showcase the fact that there are many ways to tell these stories from a cinematic point of view.

“We are in a time of diversity, where women, racial minorities and LGBTI communities, who have traditionally been under-represented in film, are having their voices brought to the fore,” adds Zhou. “Referencing this global narrative, the films in this year’s festival will reflect these new voices as much as possible.”

Among features in competition this year are the South African films Farewell Ella Bella, directed by Lwazi Mvusi, which follows a young woman on a journey to bury

A scene from the Indian film Clint, by Hari Kumar. It tells of a prodigious artist child who died before his seventh birthday, leaving behind 25 000 pictures

her father; and High Fantasy, directed by Jenna Bass, in which a group of young South Africans have to navigate a personal-political labyrinth when they wake up to discover they have swapped bodies. Also from South Africa are Sara Blecher’s Mayfair, a gangster film about a father and son; and The Recce by Ferdinand van Zyl, which explores the pain and suffering families endured during and after South Africa’s 20-year border war.

International features in competition include the US drama, The Tale, starring Laura Dern. Directed by Jennifer Fox, it chronicles one woman’s powerful investigation into her own childhood memories as she is forced to re-examine her first sexual experience.

Also of note is Clint (India) by Hari Kumar, which tells of a prodigious artist child who died before his seventh birthday, leaving behind 25 000 pictures; and the closing film Rafiki (Kenya), directed by Wanuri Kahiu, which is set in Nairobi and tells the touching tale of two very different girls who fall in love.

Competition titles in the documentary section include the South African film Silasa global tale directed by Anjali Nayar and Hawa Essuman, which warns of the power of politics and celebrates the capacity of individuals to fight back. Also in competition is Whispering Truth to Power, directed by human rights lawyer Shameela Seedat, which tracks Thuli Madonsela, South Africa’s first female Public Protector, as she builds her second case against President Jacob Zuma.

International documentaries in competition include New Moon (Kenya), directed by Phillippa Ndisi-Herrmann, who explores her journey to Sufi Islam; Amal(Lebanon, Egypt, France, Germany, Norway, Denmark), directed by Mohamed Siam, which follows a teenager as she comes to terms with her identity and sexuality in a post-revolutionary police state; and Shakedown (US), directed by Leilah Weinraub, which chronicles explicit performances in an underground queer club in Los Angeles.

Another popular choice is sure to be The State Against Nelson Mandela and the Others (France), by Nicolas Champeaux and Gilles Porte, which offers archival recordings that include Mandela’s co-accused at the Rivonia Treason Trial hearings, and which transports the audience back into the courtroom battles.

Other South African films on the billing include Durban filmmaker Michael Cross’s award-winning The Fun’s Not Over, about the life of musician James Philips, and Eubulus Timothy’s warm, coming-of-age, surf love story Deepend.

Sisters of the Wilderness is Karin Slater’s inspiring film set in the iMfolozi Wilderness. It follows five young Zulu women on a journey of self-discovery.

Then there is Oscar-nominated director Darrel Roodt’s horror film, SiembambaStephina Zwane’s comedy Baby Mamas, which revolves around the daily lives and loves of four women and their own real-life baby mama drama, and Leli Maki’s comedy Table Manners, in which a wife and mother finds solace and hope in cooking, learning that all she needs is life’s three courses – family, food and love.

Sheila Munyiva and Samantha Mugatsialr in Rafiki, which will close this year’s festival.

Prior to each screening, public service announcements will be shown. These are themed around an industry campaign, #thatsnotok, created by SWIFT (Sisters Working in Film and Television). It is a South African–based non-profit group that works to protect and advance the cause of women in the industry.

In 2018 DIFF continues its endeavours to grow cinema audiences and this year free community-based screenings will take place at Solomon Mahlangu Hall (New Germany/Clermont), KwaMashu Fan Park, Umlazi W Section Library and The Workshop Amphitheatre.

Other screenings take place at Community ZA (formerly Artspace Gallery in Umgeni) and KZNSA Gallery, Musgrave Ster Kinekor, Suncoast CineCentre and Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, as well as Ushaka Marine World, where the popular, free, ocean-focused film festival Wavescapes will take place in the public area.

“With about 400 film-makers in attendance, the public can look forward to a feast of film and some fascinating insights into the world of cinema,” saysZhou.

The DIFF is organised by the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Centre for Creative Arts in partnership with the eThekwini Municipality, KwaZulu-Natal Film Commission, National Film and Video Foundation, Durban Film Office and other valuable partners.

The festival opens at The Playhouse on July 19 and runs until July 29. The closing film will be screened on July 28, after the competition awards.

For more information visit

A moment from Stephina Zwane’s comedy Baby Mamas, about the daily lives and loves of four women and their own real-life baby mama drama

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