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NATIONAL ARTS FESTIVAL: FILM AND WINTER SCHOOL (article first published : 2008-04-2)

A super-abundance of world-class performers and a record number of premières are striking features of the Main Programme for the National Arts Festival which will take place in Grahamstown from June 26 to July 5 2008.

“A gathering of all these incredible artists all in one place, at one time, for ten days,” said outgoing Festival Director Lynette Marais, “makes you aware of the richness of the talent in South Africa. Normally these performers are dispersed across the country and, increasingly, the world. But suddenly, at the Festival, they are all together here in Grahamstown.” At this huge annual cultural reunion, audiences catch up with the latest of the best and artists catch up with each other. “You saw it first at the Festival” is a slogan that has never been more apt than this year: every single one of the productions on the theatre programme is a South African première and there are seven world premières. The music programme features several major events that will probably never be repeated again with the same casts.

If the film programme sizzles like a potjie on the coals, its three legs are three “tribute” programmes: one dedicated to prolific South African producer Darrell James Roodt, a second focusing on German filmmaker Wim Wenders and a third on that most complex of comics, Woody Allen. There’s a late-night double-feature series for the hard-to-shock cineaste; films by Jean Luc Godard and Miklos Jansco will remind us of the 40 years since May ’68 (the Soweto Uprising), and a challenging programme deals with spiritual themes. The line-up of recent releases includes Michael Raeburn’s Triomf, Nothing but the Truth directed by Ross Devenish, Caché and Breakfast on Pluto.

The Festival talk series of the popular Winter School aims to inform, provoke debate, stimulate curiosity and keep a finger on the national pulse. BASA comes to the party with sponsorship for a first-ever international arts critics’ symposium. Writers from around the world talk about their work and how they go about it and then lead audience debates after selected shows.

A broad range of topics is covered in the lecture series: climate change, China, the international arms trade and youth crime are examples. Speakers include Jane Taylor, Clem Sunter, Prof Deborah Posel and Sandile Memela, who challenges black intellectuals to contribute to public debate. Judge Dennis Davis and Advocate Michelle le Roux tackle the use and abuse of the law. The Legal Resources Centre hosts a panel discussion on “The right to education: What does it mean?” with, amongst others, Head of the Wits Education Faculty Mary Metcalfe and activist Zachie Achmat. The popular lifestyle and travel series includes talks, inter alia, by Bridget Hilton-Barber on her family’s very special garden and cyclist extraordinaire Riaan Manser on his circumnavigation of Africa on a bicycle.

The 34th anniversary of the National Arts Festival Grahamstown takes place from June 26 to July 5 2008. It is proudly supported by The Eastern Cape Government, Standard Bank, The National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, SABC and The National Arts Council.

Further details are available in the free Festival Booking Kit, which will be available from selected Standard Bank branches and Computicket outlets nationwide from April 30. Booking opens on May 5. For further information contact 046 603 1103 or visit the website www.nationalartsfestival.co.za




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