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DURBAN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL (article first published : 2003-10-8)

Now in its 24th year, South Africa's longest-running Film Festival the revitalised Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) which takes place from October 13 to 26, is experiencing rapid growth on all fronts. In addition to its historical venue at the University of Natal's Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, 2003 sees the introduction of four new venues; Cinema Screen Entertainment at The Workshop; Nu-Metro CineCentre at Suncoast; Cinema Nouveau at Gateway; and the newly-opened Ekhaya Multi-Arts Centre in KwaMashu. Further screenings take place at tertiary institutions and community venues.

Organised by the Centre for Creative Arts, this 24th edition of the Festival has enlarged dramatically to a total of 180 film screenings across the two-week period. The broad selection of films will comprise more than 50 feature films and over 40 documentaries and short films.

The DIFF fulfils an important niche in providing insight into cutting-edge genres, cinematic styles and diverse cultures from around the world, with a special showcase of the best of African cinema, and South Africa in particular. The DIFF is thus a significant platform for local filmmakers, and the festival has in recent years opened up the documentary and short film categories specifically to create opportunities for locals within a festival that elicits considerable international interest.

Amongst the gems in this major feast of film are: from Mauritania, Abderrahmane Sissako's Heremakono (Waiting For Happiness), which earned the Gold Stallion for best film at FESPACO and Golden Dhow at Zanzibar International Film Festival; premiere launches of the long-awaited Soldiers of the Rock, and the feature-length animated Zimbabwean film Legend Of The Sky Kingdom. The latter has been selected to open the festival and involves an innovative concept called Junkmation utilising found objects and "junk".

There is A Tale of a Naughty Girl by Indian master filmmaker Buddhadeb Dasgupta who will attend the festival; and Peter Mullan's The Magdalene Sisters, which picked up the coveted Golden Lion award for best film at the Venice film festival. Also included are Takeshi Kitano's Dolls; Larry Clark's controversial Ken Park (uncut); Amnesty International - DOEN Award winner Women's Prison from Iranian Manijeh Hekmat; award-winning Five In The Afternoon by another Iranian woman director Samira Makhmalbaf; French director Francois Ozon's unique Swimming Pool featuring Charlotte Rampling; the Australian film Japanese Story starring Toni Colette; the controversial film about the Sri Lankan civil war In the Name of Buddha; the Icelandic Noi Albino by Dagur Kari; Samsara by India's Pan Nalin, and Maqbool, also from India, which transplants Shakespeare's Macbeth into the seedy Bombay underworld.

Other film highlights include the world festival premiere of A Closer Walk, the global portrayal of the HIV/AIDS epidemic by Oscar-nominated director Robert Bilheimer, and a select kick-off for the nationwide Italian Film Festival. Music films include the Rhythms of Africa documentary series; the first public screenings in South Africa of Stopping the Music about the Security Branch clamp on Roger Lucey's career, and the music-based resilience of Sophiatown, Surviving Apartheid. Casa del Musica tells the story of Robbie Jansen journey in Cuba - Jansen is featured musician at the Closing Night party where the eThekwini Film Awards will be presented. The high standard of current documentary film-making and their importance in raising significant issues is evident in films such as The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (stunning coverage of the coup and hostage-taking of the president in Venezuela), The Day I will Never Forget (powerful exposť about female circumcision), Words On Water about the effects of dam-building on thousands of people in India and the political and corporate politics behind it (introduced by Arundhati Roy), and revealing Zimbabwe Countdown.

One of the principal objectives of the DIFF is to strategise effective audience development in all areas and levels. This is in part through the provision of innovative screenings not just in mainstream cinemas but in areas where facilities do not exist, and the new Ekhaya venue in KwaMashu represents a real inreach into new communities. Alongside the development of audiences through screenings is the challenge of entry into the industry, something also addressed by the festival in recent years through training. The increasing presence of filmmakers has contributed to the success of seminar and workshop programmes which have grown around the festival. Peter Rorvik, director of the festival, reports incredible enthusiasm for the workshop component. This, he says, augurs well for the development of local expertise. The free seminars have highlighted some of the issues and challenges facing the growth of the industry, and feed the flame of film interest in KwaZulu-Natal.

The 2003 programme includes, for the third consecutive year, a 5-day video-production workshop for first-time filmmakers from community organisations.

At the intermediate level the festival will co-ordinate workshops with young filmmakers of the MUFIP project at Ekhaya in KwaMashu, which will also host regular screenings. Amongst others, there will be a workshop hosted by the IPO (Independent Producers Organisation), a demonstration workshop of Films in Progress, and a range of talks and discussion forums involving local and international filmmakers at various venues. The Durban International Film Festival is supported by the National Film and Video Foundation, the National Lottery Distribution Fund, Hivos, Ethekwini Municipality, City of Durban, Tourism KwaZulu-Natal, plus a range of Embassies and Cultural Agencies. Tickets are available through Computicket. The full selection of films and activities is available on www.und.ac.za/und/carts/The Durban International Film Festival is supported by the National Film and Video Foundation, the National Lottery Distribution Fund, Hivos, Ethekwini Municipality, City of Durban, Tourism KwaZulu-Natal, plus a range of Embassies and Cultural Agencies. Tickets are available through Computicket. The full selection of films and activities is available on www.und.ac.za/und/carts/

The Durban International Film Festival is supported by the National Film and Video Foundation, the National Lottery Distribution Fund, Hivos, Ethekwini Municipality, City of Durban, Tourism KwaZulu-Natal, plus a range of Embassies and Cultural Agencies. Tickets are available through Computicket. The full selection of films and activities is available on www.und.ac.za/und/carts/




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