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DURBAN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL (article first published : 2002-08-20)

The Centre for Creative Arts presents the 23rd Durban International Film Festival at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, University of Natal, from September 2 to 15. Supported by the National Film and Video Foundation, City of Durban, City of Rotterdam, Interfund and the KZN Education and Culture Directorate, the festival, will present a selection of over 100 features, documentaries and short films.

Film highlights include a strong selection of Indian film. Award-winning director Murali Nair's A Dog's Day is a political fairy tale set in his native Kerala. Jayaraaj's Calmness (Shantham) is about two young men who grow up side by side in the same village who are slowly drawn into rival political movements that demand their loyalty and obedience. Jayaraaj's Karunam won the Audience Prize at last year's festival.

Indian documentaries include Aftershocks directed by Rakesh Sharma, a story linked to the massive earthquakes in Gujurat last year, and Anand Patwardhan's controversial War and Peace (Jang Aur Aman). Recently banned in India and now the subject of a court battle, this epic documentary was filmed over three tumultuous years in India, Pakistan, Japan and the USA following the nuclear tests in the Indian subcontinent.

Fans of Japanese animation will be especially thrilled with the inclusion of anime and manga wizard Mamoru Oshii's first live-action film Avalon and Hayao Mizayaki's Spirited Away - one of the biggest grossing films ever in Japan and the winner of the Golden Bear at this year's Berlin festival.

The young and wild can enjoy a range of films focussing on youth lifestyles such as Club le Monde, a hilarious comedy set in the British clubland in the early '90s; Don's Plum, starring Leonardo di Caprio and Tobey Maguire when they were still film students (the two barred the film from cinematic release in the USA) and the Austrian film Lovely Rita which is a tense, insightful and ultimately tragic look at teenage angst. Another sure hit will be Spun, a hyperkinetic speedball of drugs, sex and insanity with a blistering score by Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins) and awesome performances from Mena Suvari, John Leguizamo, Mickey Rourke and Debbie Harry.

Other festival feature highlights include Videovision Entertainment's opening night film Rabbit Proof Fence directed by Phillip Noyce, which is the true story of three aboriginal girls who are forcibly taken from their outback families in 1931 to be trained as domestic servants as part of official Western Australian government policy. The girls escape and, with grit and determination, embark on an epic 1500 mile journey to get back home, following the rabbit-proof fence as a guide. The authorities, led by AO Neville (Kenneth Branagh), are unwilling to let them go and relentlessly pursue them. Doris Pilkington, author of the book on which the film is based and daughter of the one of the three young girls about whom the story is told, will be the guest on opening night and will be in South Africa to conduct one of the Festival workshops.

The festival will host filmmakers and industry-related personalities including director Jon Bang Carlsen (Denmark) who has written and directed more than thirty multi-award winning documentary, short and feature films; Carolyn Carew-Maseko (South Africa), Head of Television for Love Life's media strategy; Fidelis Duker (Nigeria), who has produced over 22 features and will talk about the fascinating video phenomenon in Nigeria; Cristóbal Krusen (USA) whose film Final Solution was shot in South Africa; Desiree Markgraaff (South Africa) who is the producer of Amandla! A Revolution In Four Part Harmony, and the Yizo-Yizo television series; Khalipha Eddie Mbalo (South Africa) CEO of the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF); Martin Mhando (Tanzania) co-director of the award-winning feature Maangamizi; Akin Omotoso (South Africa) the renowned star of television's Generations, and director of the feature film God Is African; and Debra Zimmerman (USA) executive director of Women Make Movies, the world's largest distributor of films by and about women.

Eubulus Timothy (South Africa) will also attend the festival to present the South African premiere of his film Othello. This innovative film retains the original text of Shakespeare's classic tale of love, jealousy and hatred but situates it in a modern South African setting.

A workshop programme and the extensive outreach screenings are all part of a long-term strategy designed to stimulate filmmakers, develop new audiences and broaden the appreciation of film in as inclusive a way as possible. All workshops and panel discussions are free and open to the public and will touch on the following subjects: scriptwriting and production issues, the progress of the KZN Film Office and recent film industry indabas; new documentary production; film as an important agent of change; unpacking issues around access, rights to tell stories, censorship, and propaganda; the "straight-to-video" business model as a possible solution to African distribution problems; and filming on a shoe-string

The primary screening venue for the festival is the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre with special showings at Berea Cine Centre and outreach screenings in township areas where cinema facilities are non-existent. A one-night festival at the University of Durban-Westville (September 13), and a two-day festival in KwaMashu (September 14 to 15) also form part of the activities.

A full programme of films will be available two weeks prior to the festival. Tickets can be booked at Computicket. For further information call the Centre for Creative Arts at 031 260-2506 or 260-1145 or visit www.und.ac.za/und/carts/




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