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DURBAN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL (article first published : 2002-09-6)

The Centre for Creative Arts presents the 23rd Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, University of Natal, Berea Cine Centre, and other venues in and around Durban from September 2 to 15, 2002.

This longest running film festival in the country, supported by the National Film and Video Foundation, City of Durban, City of Rotterdam, Interfund and the KZN Education and Culture Directorate, will present a selection of around 100 features, documentaries and short films, as well as extensive outreach and workshop programmes designed to stimulate film-makers, develop new audiences and broaden the appreciation of film.

South African film and films made in South Africa play an important role as part of the festival's ethic to promote African film. The festival includes the South African premiere of Othello, which sets Shakespeare's original text within the vibrant atmosphere of a changing South Africa. The film will be introduced by innovative producer/director pair Eubulus and Jacintha Timothy. Akin Omotoso, who plays Khaya Motene in Generations, is director of the powerful, independently-financed, youth-driven film God is African, and will also be in Durban to present his film. Another perspective is portrayed in American director Cristobal Krusen's Final Solution, a harrowing film with powerful social and political messages set just before the first democratic election. Ken Kaplan's award-winning Pure Blood is a South African political horror film, a dark comedy that pits the forces of fascism against the redeeming power of true love and home cooking.

The exceptionally high standard of documentaries this year features very strong representation by South Africa. Two highlights are the closing night film, Sundance winner Amandla! A Revolution In Four Part Harmony, which is about the music of the struggle, and the premiere of Children of the Revolution on 6th September. The film traces post-struggle lives of youthful activists. These films will be introduced by producer Desiree Markgraaf; and rising-star director Zola Maseko, respectively.

Films from India feature strongly. (see s 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 in the same village who are slowly drawn into rival political movements that demand their loyalty and obedience. (Jayaraaj's Karunam won the DIFF audience award at last year's festival.) Dev Benegal's Split Wide Open is a furiously-paced and wildly innovative look at Bombay sexuality. Controversial filmmaker Anand Patwardhan's documentary War and Peace (Jang Aur Aman) promises to be a major highlight of the festival. 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.

Youth culture and lifestyle is the focus of some upbeat and off-the-wall motion pictures such as Club le Monde, a hilarious slice-of-life comedy set in the British clubland in the early '90s; Don's Plum, starring Leonardo diCaprio and Tobey Maguire when they were still film students (they have barred this film from cinematic release in the USA); the Austrian film Lovely Rita which is a tense, insightful and ultimately tragic look at teenage angst and Spun, a relentless and unapologetic, twisted and dark, cranked up, no-safety-belt trip into the raging heart of America created by music video wunderkind Jonas Ackerlund. This film blasts off where Trainspotting didn't dare to go.

Other highlights include Japan's 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. These two films are expected to sell-out early so pre-booking is advised.

Of particular note is Videovision Entertainment's opening night film Rabbit Proof Fence directed by Phillip Noyce. This is a 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 embark on an epic 1500 mile journey to get back home, following the rabbit-proof fence as a guide. 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 at both screenings of the film and will also present and discuss a featurette entitled Follow the Rabbit Proof Fence.

Narratives about women and gender come under the spotlight in a number of features, documentaries and short films. Maangamizi - The Ancient One (Tanzania) tells a story of two women, one African, one American, who are summoned to the majestic heights of Kilimanjaro and are led by a mysterious ancestor on a primal journey of spiritual awakening. Director Martin Mhando will participate in two festival workshops. Danish film director, Jon Bang Carlsen's Addicted to Solitude listens to reflections of two South African white women of different backgrounds. A prolific filmmaker, Carlsen will present four films during the festival plus a workshop. His documentary on soccer star Sibusiso Zuma is bound to be a hit.

On a lighter note Woody Allen fans can see the South African premiere of his latest film Hollywood Ending which was the opening film at Cannes 2002.

Eschewing Hollywood production values for riveting and relevant stories, the Nigerian video industry has flourished over the past few years. Experienced Nigerian filmmaker, Fidelis Duker will present Nigerian films and workshops on this "straight-to-video" concept, which should be of special interest for entry-level filmmakers.

A vast selection of shorts have been combined into packages, and there is an innovative collection of documentaries and short films from Southern Africa about life in the times of HIV/ AIDS which fall under the Steps to the Future title.

Amongst the film-makers and industry personalities participating in the comprehensive workshop and discussion programme are: the Mexican director of the stunning film Francisca, Eva Lopez-Sanchez; filmmakers Cristobal Krusen (Final Solution), Eubulus and Jacintha Timothy, Lydie Diakhate (Mali), Madoda Ncayiyana, Debra Zimmerman (CEO of Women Make Movies) and others.

The primary screening venue for the festival is the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre with special showings at the 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 (13 September), and a 2-day festival in KwaMashu (14-15 September) also form part of the activities. The full programme is now available at Computicket, Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre or on the website www.und.ac.za/und/carts/

Tickets are R20 per screening and can be pre-booked at Computicket or at the advance ticket purchase stand at the Sneddon which will operate from 12h30 to 20h30 for the duration of the festival. Tickets may also be purchased at the Sneddon from one hour before each screening. Tickets for Berea Cine Centre screenings only available at their ticket office; for advance bookings call 031 201 6265. For further information call the Centre for Creative Arts at 031 260 2506 or 031 260 3586.




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