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ITALIAN FILMS AT 29TH DIFF (article first published : 2008-07-23)

Cinema in all its diversity will once again be celebrated at the 29th Durban International Film Festival which runs from July 23 to August 3.

Featuring more than 200 films from more than 95 countries, spread over more than 300 screenings at 26 venues across the city, the festival will bring together established masters of cinema and innovative new talents from around the world.

The Italian films at the 29th Durban International Film Festival represent a rich sample of new Italian independent cinema and is strong evidence of the links developing between Italian and South African cinema. If there is a discernable theme running through each of these films, it is the diversity of the new Italian reality. Indeed, one could make the case that Italy, in these films, appears more as the container than the content.

Thus audiences will see Bangladeshi families (Licu’s Holiday) and Moroccan-born transvestites (Woman’s Hearts) living in big Italian cities, struggling to forge a new identity, and Italian jazz players exposed to South African township music (Zulu Meets Jazz). Even the exciting thriller The Girl by the Lake, which appears so rooted in Italian culture, is adapted from a foreign book. Song of Freedom is also a universal story, a melodrama of bodies rather than of the spaces. Gomorrah only appears Italian because we know it takes place in Naples, but it is such an hyper-realistic work, showing a world apart with its own language (even the Italian version has subtitles to translate the local dialect), own rules, laws and outlaws, that it appears even more “foreign” than the above-mentioned films. It is a small but accurate selection of films which shows also the great vitality of Italian Cinema despite fund cuts and a difficult relationship with the Italian television networks.

The selection is headed up by the stunning Gomorrah (Gomorra) by Matteo Garrone which won the Grand Prix at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. The film is an unflinching look at the Neapolitan Camorra, the dangerous crime network that runs rampant in the Italian region. In the thriller The Girl By The Lake (Ragazza Del Lago) by Andrea Molaioli, life in an idyllic town is ruptured when the nude corpse of a young girl is found beside an alpine lake. The delightful documentary Licu’s Holiday (Le Ferie Di Licu) by Vittorio Moroni follows the almost Herculean trials faced by Licu, a twenty-seven year-old Muslim born in Bangladesh and who now lives in Rome, as he travels back to Bangladesh to marry the bride his family has chosen for him.

Song Of Freedom, Valerio D’Annunzio’s astonishing debut, tells the gripping story of a famous and brilliant concert pianist who has repressed his lifelong urge to dress in women’s clothing, and who finally decides to reveal his desires to his wife. Woman’s Hearts (Corazones De Mujer) by Kiff Kosoof sees an unlikely bond develop between bride-to-be Moroccan-Italian Zina and wedding gown maker, Shakira, a Moroccan transvestite, as they set off from Turin to Casablanca, where Zina can get the virginity restoration that will make her marriage legitimate in the eyes of society.

There is a strong Durban focus in Zulu Meets Jazz, by Ferdinando Vicentini Orgnani. This documentary follows renowned Italian trumpeter Paolo Fresu’s voyage through South African township jazz with the guidance of the KZN Vintage Legends Orchestra, which includes the legends Theo Bophela and Ndikho Xaba, both in their seventies. Encompassing great performances, the film has its roots in director Orgnani’s previous visit to DIFF in 2005, where he met up with talented young filmmaker Jahmil XT Qubeka, and the resultant Italy/South Africa co-production is a pleasing outcome of the networking that takes place behind the scenes at the festival.

The Italian Focus at DIFF is made possible by the cooperation of MIBAC, The Italian Ministry of Culture, The Italian Institute of Culture, the Italian Consulate in Durban and Controluce.

Principal screening venues of DIFF 2008 are Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre; Nu-Metro Cinecentre-Suncoast; Ster Kinekor Musgrave, Cinema Nouveau - Gateway; Ekhaya Multi-Arts Centre in KwaMashu; Kwasuka Theatre and the BAT Centre, with further screenings in township areas where cinemas are non-existent, and a special programme of screenings at Luthuli Museum on the North Coast.

Programme booklets with the full screening schedule and synopses of all the films are available free at cinemas, Computicket, and other outlets. Full festival details can also be found on www.cca.ukzn.ac.za or by calling 031 260 2506 or 031 260 1650.

Organised by the Centre for Creative Arts (UKZN) the Durban International Film Festival is funded by National Film & Video Foundation, SABC, HIVOS, Royal Netherlands Embassy, KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development, Stichting Doen, the German Embassy in South Africa, Goethe Institute of South Africa, Industrial Development Corporation, and the City of Durban, with valued support from a range of other partners.




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