BY BILLY SUTER
A FEATURE-LENGTH documentary on the late British pop star George Michael is among 57 films to be screened over 10 days at various venues as part of the 8th annual Durban Gay & Lesbian Film Festival.
The event will not be held at its usual venue, the KZNSA Gallery in Glenwood, but at various venues – from this Friday, September 21, to Sunday, September 30.
“Earlier this year our team decided on taking advantage of the Heritage Day long weekend in boosting the number of days patrons who work full-time can enjoy our programme. So the decision was taken to position the festival around this important holiday on September 24,” says festival director Jason Fiddler.
“This year is proving to be a financially challenging one for many South Africans, and we found it particularly hard as a cultural event to secure sponsorship.
Fortunately, thanks to the invaluable ongoing support of Alliance Française of Durban and venue help from commercial property urban regeneration specialists Urban Lime, the DGLFF can confidently screen films this year.
“This is the first year we won’t be able to screen at our beloved KZNSA Gallery in Glenwood, owing to a full exhibition calendar, but we certainly look forward to bringing some films back there next year.”
The format of the festival continues its eclectic tradition of including a diversity of subjects and film formats.
The opening night film on Friday, September 21, is the feature-length documentary, George Michael: Freedom –The Director’s Cut. Directed by Michael himself, and co-directed by David Austin, the film offers nearly two hours of celebrity interviews with, among others, Elton John, Mary J Blige and Liam Gallagher, whilst the man himself tells his story, his way.
With frank revelations interspersed with the songs and music that made him a global pop and soul phenomenon, Michael shares an autobiographical journey that doesn’t shy away from unpleasant truths, nor does it sensationalise seminal experiences in his life and career.
He simply and effectively shows how a gay boy found fame, excess, love, painful loss, contractual battles alongside his career defining music.
“The festival is proud to have secured the rights to show this incredible film, and audiences should note that there is only one screening of the film at a cost of R80 per ticket. Our pop-up main venue is at the top of vibrant Florida Road, at 344 Florida Road. Ticket enquiries can be made via our website.”
Seven feature films have been secured this year, including Breathe, a French coming-of-age drama about two young women and their relationship twists, and Time is Up, a gay drama from Greek filmmaker Nicolas Pourliaros that poignantly looks through a monochromatic palette at the contemplation of life’s value.
Johannesburg-based filmmaker Sean Steinberg will celebrate the world premiere of his 55-minute (S)he this year, on Saturday, September 22. Breaking important ground for an under-considered community, this film tells of Penny Kemp, an intersex teenager who, after qualifying to compete in the 2016 Olympic trials, is forced to undergo gender treatmen to keep her high levels of testosterone at bay. Only, she doesn’t want to.
Made with a micro-budget the films explores a very difficult subject with delicacy.
Also among the line-up is Still Waiting in the Wings, about characters breaking out into original song as they busk their way ‘off-Broadway’ and battle their way through backstabbing musical theatre.
Canadian film-maker and gay film star Charlie David continues his support of the Durban festival with Shadowlands, a dark and occasionally disturbing homage to the bygone queer eras of the ’30s, ’50s and ’60s that explores love in three separate stories – a couple renegotiating a relationship, a narcissist grasping to comprehend it, and star-crossed lovers mourning its loss.
Joseph Adesunloye, a British-Nigerian and award-winning filmmaker premiered his Faces at the Durban International Film Festival in July to much acclaim.
“Joseph and I felt that the film needed to be seen by more LGBTIQ people in Durbs and the producers kindly agreed to allow us to make it our closing night film on Saturday, September 29, with an encore screening the following afternoon” says Fiddler.
“Weaving such a powerful storyline with a predominantly black UK cast, Joseph is able to tell Durban audiences of all persuasions and backgrounds utterly human and relatable stories. Some will shock, others will make one cry, but ultimately they reinforce the beauty of love and friendship, especially between women who have endured great pain and suffering.”
There are a dozen other documentaries that explore transgender stories from Tonga to Chile to Pakistan.
Learn of a gay Israeli man’s struggle for familial acceptance whilst HIV-positive and the acceptance he finds in a gay men’s choir in Who’s Gonna Love Me No?; discover haunting stories from Zimbabwean gay men in Give a Man a Mask, and discover drag queen, and king, cultures from China to the United States.
The festival programme continues to embrace and celebrate short film as powerful means of telling a diversity of stories, with high production values.
Thirty-four short films from 18 countries across five continents have been packaged into seven feature slots that include lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer comedies, dramas and even stop-animation films. Among them is the 14-minute Goldfish, from Greece, about a young boy who thinks his new goldfish is gay, much to the horror of his conservative father.
Audiences can again look forward to an entertaining, thought-provoking, disturbing and ultimately fun film selection in 2018.
On Heritage Day afternoon, and throughout the week of September 24 to 28, at 2pm and 4pm, the festival offers patrons free screenings of a number of short films and documentaries, including acclaimed South African short films in the ‘Mzansi Mix’.
Also continuing is the effective Festival Ticket Pool that includes donated tickets for underprivileged, senior citizen and student patrons. Requests for tickets can be made direct with the organisers.
Those interested in supporting the festival and the Ticket Pool, can use the Zapper code on display on the DGLFF website or Facebook page to facilitate card payments via the phone app, and even make donations to the Festival.
Tickets for most screenings cost R40 each with a 50% concession to students and senior citizens – however, these are not applicable to the opening and closing night films which cost R80 a ticket.
Patrons can also buy Silver Festival Passes for R250 that include 10 screenings and are transferrable. Gold Festival Passes this year are reduced at R500 and includesall screenings.
The main Festival Hub venue will be at POP, 344 Florida Road, Berea, a former art gallery space ideal as a pop-up screening venue, where most screenings will take place.
Alliance Française will host two week nights in Morningside. On Friday, September 28, there will be a pop-up ‘T-DANCE’ social fundraiser at the German Club in Westville – details will be on the festival’s website and Facebook page.
Details of events, and downloadable programme are available at www.dglff.org.za – also Instagram/Twitter @dbngayfilmfest and Facebook @DGLFF