THE UNIVERSITY OF KWAZULU-NATAL’S Centre for Creative Arts (CCA) hosts the Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) from Thursday, July 21 to Saturday, July 30. The 43rd edition of the festival programme showcases Adaptation, Survival and Sustainability. As is their tradition, the present a carefully curated selection of South African premieres, screening virtually (for free) on www.durbanfilmfest.com and in person at Cine Centre Suncoast Casino. DIANE DE BEER
On Thursday, DIFF2022 opens with the live and a free virtual screening of 1960, directed by Michael Mutombo and King Shaft. You’re My Favourite Place by Jahmil X.T. Qubeka closes the festival on July 29, after which film-lovers still have the opportunity to see the film online on July 30. The awards will also take place virtually on 30 July.
DIFF 2022 is presented in a hybrid edition with online screenings at www.durbanfilmfest.com and a diverse live programme at Cine Centre, Suncoast Casino, Durban. Tickets for all live screenings are accessible on www.cinecentre.co.za. The entire festival programme can be seen on www.durbanfilmfest.com. The 43rd edition of the festival is produced by the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Centre for Creative Arts, in partnership and with the support of KZN Film Commission, the National Film and Video Foundation, KZN Department of Arts & Culture, Avalon Group and other valued funders and partners.
What I have really always liked about DIFF is that their choices are obviously dominated by the best from home ground, but the rest of their selection is always intriguing, unusual and dominated by issues of the day.
Here, for example, are short reviews of just four of my personal choices to give you an idea:
Valley of a Thousand Hills: It is beautifully shot and as, those who have been to this area will know, the scenery – as the name suggests – is spectacular. But more importantly, the themes are relevant and part of the fabric of so many lives not only in this country but across borders. What do you do when your girlfriend (and hopefully soon-to-be wife) is promised to your brother?
Not only is the arranged wedding problematic in this instance, but so as well is the same-sex relationship that is being hidden from both families. And to top this, Nosipho is being held up to her conservative community as the model daughter.
Directed and written by Bonie Sithebe with fellow writer Philani Sithebe, starring Sibongokuhle Nkosi and Mandilsa Vilakazi, it’s a story that showcases the dilemma of trying to force people to do something that go against everything they are and what they believe in.
It’s important that the language is Zulu, the one spoken most frequently in that region. It contributes to the authenticity of the story as well as the performances. It also celebrates people claiming their own stories. This is how we really get to know one another.
Ring Wandering: If manga is your thing, don’t miss this one. In fact even if it isn’t, if for nothing else, it has one of the most beautifully magical endings one could imagine.
A young aspiring manga artist living in Tokyo is busy with a story about a hunter and a Japanese wolf. He is battling with this tale, especially with capturing the essence of the wolf, which is extinct.
Working on a construction site where he makes his living as a day labourer, he finds an animal skull and is intrigued whether it might be of the wolf he is trying to draw.
He takes it home without permission and returns to the site at night to see if he can find more of the missing bones. And this is where the story takes on a different hue in almost fabelesque fashion.
Written and directed by Masakazu Kaneko, starring Show Kasamatsu and Junko Abe, amongst others, and described as drama, fantasy, there’s something special and otherworldly about the film which is suitable for all in the family (8yrs and older I would guess) as well.
Klondike: This is the most upsetting and realistic of the four films but one, which perhaps because of its relevance, has the most impact. From Ukraine, it deals with the early days of the Donbas war in 2014.
A few years later and with that region now involved 100 percent in one of the most destructive attacks in recent memory, the story (which is based on fact) is truly chilling. With everything we know, you can imagine what is happening right now when watching this terrifying anti-war movie.
Expectant parents Irka and Tolik live in this region of eastern Ukraine near the Russian border. Already in 2014, it was disputed area and the violence heightened when flight MH17 crashed in the region.
Imagine not knowing what we know now and living in the midst of the suddenly explosive land where people of both Russian and Ukranian descent live. Making the war deeply personal while focusing on a couple expecting their first child draws viewers right to the heart of the story.
Not only are the young couple slightly freaked about the imminent coming of their first child, but the uncertainty of what is happening in their area compounds their horror. It is a deeply disturbing and harrowing tale, yet one that all of us need to deal with in our fast-changing world.
Writer and director Maryna Er Gorbach with cast including Oxana Cherkashyna, Sergiy Shadrin and Oleg Shevchuk, do a magnificent job juggling with the reality and emotional impact when your whole life is turned upside down from one minute to the next.
Informed as we are about what is currently happening in Ukraine turns this into newsreel rather than story. And the way the husband and wife tell their specific tale turns it into something up close and personal. We don’t dare turn away.
Donkeyhead: Depending on your age, this one might seem relevant or not, but because it deals with ageing parents, it is something that will impact everyone’s lives. Here it is the siblings that come into play.
All kinds of things happen to families when parents age, are incapable of looking after themselves, and the siblings have to step in. The burden of immediate care always falls on specific members who are either close by or capable of changing their lives to accommodate their parents’ plight.
In this instance, it is the youngest daughter, a struggling writer, Mona, who is still staying at home and most comfortable caring for her ailing Sikh father. When he has a debilitating stroke, the three more successful siblings rush back to their parental home to advise their youngest sibling, whom they see as a failure.
Family dynamics and dependencies are always traumatic and amusing because they are often so familiar even if in different guises. And whether we want to deal with this state of affairs either as children or parents, life doesn’t simply pass us by because we prefer to ignore the inevitable.
It is both an insightful and impactful telling of a much too familiar tale, but one we all need to grapple with before it’s too late. This Canadian directorial debut is directed and written by Agam Darshi and stars Agam Darshi, Kim Coates, Stephen Lobo, Sandy Sidhu and Marvin Ishmael.
All the films reviewed are also screened in cinema (priced between R75 and R115 a ticket), which means they will only start screening virtually (and for free) after their cinema date:
Donkeyhead: screening from July 22, 7pm to July 30.
Klondike: screening from July 26, 21.30pm to July 30.
Valley of a Thousand Hills: screening from July 28, 21.30pm to July 30.
Ring Wandering: screening from July 29, 7pm and July 30.