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NATIONAL ARTS FESTIVAL FILMS (article first published : 2004-06-14)

Six film premières head the film programme for the 2004 National Arts Festival taking place in Grahamstown from July1 to 10. Three of the new features are South African, and their high quality bears testimony to the increasing sophistication of the local film industry.

The Wooden Camera by Ntshavheni wa Luruli is expected to attract considerable audience interest because Chikin Biznis -The Whole Story, Luruli's earlier film, topped the box office polls for three festivals in succession. Another new film, A Case of Murder, by Clive Howard Morris sees Afrikaans rock singer Steve Hofmeyr cast as an amoral killer. Catherine Stewart's Transit Café tells of a rural wastrel up to no good in the city.

Three other premières come from the USA, the UK and the Netherlands respectively. Erik Skjoldbaerg's Prozac Nation is based on Elizabeth Wurzel's book about being young and depressed in America. Julian Temple's Pandemonium focuses on the intense creative relationship between poetry's two Williams - Coleridge and Wordsworth. Jeroen Krabbe's A Discovery of Heaven sets a love triangle amid a galactic survey of history and philosophy.

Films about art and artists include a 70-minute William Kentridge compilation (with live music by the Sontonga Quartet and pianist Jill Richards). More music fills the auditorium with Lisa Key's Karoo Kitaar Blues (on David Kramer's research safari) and Charles Ives - A Good Dissonance Like a Man which complements the Ives component of the New Music Indaba.

Dance gets a whirl with a collaboration between avant gardist Aryan Kaganoff and dancer Moeketsi Mokoena, and Raka, a ballet movie based on the Van Wyk Louw poem.

The life and work of JM Coetzee are the pivots for four films (including a documentary feature). They are JM Coetzee's Passages, Dust, The Desert of the Tartars (which parallels Waiting for the Barbarians) and The Lives of Animals.

Helping to contextualise the debate around Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, the film will be screened after three other films about the message of the Christian Gospels - Pasolini's The Gospel of St Matthew, Elftrom's The Gospel Road and Dwoskin's Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet.

The search for spiritual grace takes other forms in two more films: Heaven (with a script by the man who made the Three Colours movies) and 21 Grams - a flourish of metaphysical storytelling from Mexico.

Godfrey Reggio's filmic discourse on deep ecology is also profoundly spiritual. Four of his seminal works will be screened - all around 30 minutes long, they all feature music by Philip Glass.

The National Arts Festival Film programme traditionally offers audiences a chance to catch up on the classics and this year six Japanese masterpieces and seven surrealist gems are included. Throne of Blood, Woman of the Dunes, Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast and Orpheus command repeat viewing!

In a tribute to performing artists who died during the past year, a special programme of 10 film stars remembers or refers to the likes of Ken Gampu, Lionel Ngakane, James Phillips, Johnny Cash and Charles Bronson.

This National Arts Festival film programme is proudly brought to you by, The Eastern Cape Government, Standard Bank, The National Lotteries Distribution Trust Fund, the SABC and the National Arts Council.




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