It was time to celebrate at the 10th kykNET Silwerskerm Film Festival following some sidestepping during the pandemic and hectic lockdowns. But they’re back and it appeared as if many filmmakers of both full length and short films benefited from the grace period to sharpen their skills and their scripts. In the long run, this has been a festival that has added potential and punch to the local film landscape. DIANE DE BEER takes a look at her personal 2022 favourites:
The power of storytelling was again in evidence at this year’s 10th celebratory Silwerskerm Film Festival held at Camps Bay’s Bay Hotel at the end of March.
It has always been my experience that the arts is one of the best ways to get to know one another, especially in a country as diverse as ours and (because of our horrific history) still divided in so many ways.
But with different communities sharing their stories, we are invited into different spaces, some familiar and others not so much.
Perhaps the more extreme example is Down So Long, a story set in Hangberg, the settlement in Houtbay so many hoped they could wish away. It is too visible a reminder of the inequalities so rampant in our land with the more affluent Hout Bay directly facing this more struggling offshoot
And yet, that’s not what the film is about. It’s the story of Joseph Mabena who lives with his wife Doreen and their children and spouses and grandchildren in their overcrowded house. When he is injured in a workplace accident, he is offered a substantial amount of money as compensation for the loss of an eye.
But it doesn’t take long for him to see exactly what is happening at home. There’s a sudden rush of affection as the family rallies in the hope of turning their lives around with this unexpected windfall.
Mabena’s eyes are opened, he sees through their deception and arrives home with a new girlfriend.
Scenes from an enthusiastic cast and crew in the powerful and revealing Down So Long.
What makes this such an exciting venture is that the filmmakers wanted to work with what they viewed as “invisible people” and, by telling their stories, give them a voice.
Workshopped productions are perhaps more easily done in theatre, and here it is especially intriguing, as the cast was comprised of both professional actors and participants from the community who could bring validity to the script.
It’s yet another way of giving voice to the voiceless, and the screening was particularly enchanting because of the excitement of those who had participated. They might not have the acting experience but they came from this place, know the people and could recreate the feeling of what the people and the place represented. “It’s a way of working with the community who represent the lived experience,” said one of the director/producers.
That is the real value of the piece. The camera was used in observational fashion and those of us watching could get a real feel for the place. As entertaining as it was, it is also hugely educational, a true gift.
The Barakat family with Vinette Ebrahim (centre) the heart of the story.
Barakat, a film that deservedly walked off with a clutch of prizes, also deals with a specific community, but this time it is a professional cast telling the story of a Cape Flats Muslim family, who are experiencing their own trauma, trials and tribulations.
This particular community has often been presented with a political backdrop and usually by others telling their stories, but this time, it is just another family going through their own stuff while showing us a lifestyle of a particular community who isn’t usually featured in this fashion.
In interviews, director/screenwriter Amy Jephta acknowledges that she wanted to tell a story about a normal family, their joys and struggles, in this instance that of a Muslim widow Aishee Davids (Vinette Ebrahim) who gathers her family to tell them about her engagement to a Christian suitor.
With four sons, this isn’t going to be easy and this is the journey Jephta (and her co-writer Ephraim Gordon) takes us on.
It is the way the story is told (often with gentle humour), the excellent cast led by a magnificent Vinette Ebrahim (who received the Best Actress award) and the superb production values (deservedly winning them Best Screenplay, Best Original Soundtrack (Kyle Shepherd), Best Production Design and Best Supporting Actress for June van Mersch).
The storytelling sweeps you off your feet as you are invited into the heart of this close-knit yet squabbling family, who has forgotten all about their blessings and are focussed on their individual needs. Bakarat means blessing, and that’s exactly what this left me with while watching. We live in a country where for far too long certain voices and stories were ignored.
By acknowledging who we are, our stories embrace the riches which have been neglected, and we all benefit.
Another filmmaker I’ve been watching the past couple of years is Etienne Fourie and this time (as he explained at the post screening discussions) with the appropriately OTT Stiekyt, he truly made the film he wanted to make. And it shows. It’s a scream in many different ways.
First off, he obviously has an imagination which runs riot, and with drag queens (a whole clutch of them) running the show, he could afford to go wild.
Different looks from Best Actor Paul du Toit in Skietyt.
But he does his homework and gets all the building blocks ready before starting a shoot. He has put together a dream cast of young actors. Start with Paul du Toit (who won Best Actor) who plays an actor who joins a failing drag club to save his marriage, and that line should already say enough. He needs money to pay the bills and his wife (Cintaine Schutte) is unaware of his dilemma.
The club hosts a handful of drag queens played by actors who are tough to recognise in their extravagant costumes, colourful coiffure and knock-‘em-dead makeup, but this camp coterie drives the film in most joyous fashion.
Combine all that with the acting quality of Albert Pretorius (who won Best Supporting Actor), Wessel Pretorius, Carlton George, Jacques Bessinger (in fact the full enselmble) and you already have a winner.
But everything isn’t a laughing matter, as the story unravels in full blooded gory fashion when a killer suddenly emerges in spectacular style. It is that kind of film. If you buy into the premise, you could just die laughing. But I will keep watching this particular screenwriter/director whose movies all seem to pay homage to cinema in a most original fashion.
His films keep you watching and I can’t wait for the moment he strikes gold.
Short films play a huge part in this particular film festival, and this is where future filmmakers start emerging. They’re fun to watch as they are plentiful and give you an idea what stories are being told and what talent is out there from cinematographers to composers to actors – and of course directors and screenwriters.
Many of our most promising directors dabbled in this particular section before they tackled a full-length film.
For the first time the audience favourite, Leemtes en Leegheid, was also the winning short film. Starring real-life husband and wife team Lida and Johan Botha, its a stripped yet emotional story that deals with grief as an elderly couple come to terms with the inevitable. A stunning portrayal of ageing, loss and battling with loneliness.
In sharp contrast, Skyn deals in contemporary sass with a young woman who is desperate to escape the drudgery of her own life by imagining a different starring role. The story stars the talented Carla Smith, who also wrote the script winning her the Best Actress award as well as a prize for the Best Ensemble with co-stars Albert Pretorius, Wilhelm van der Walt and Greta Pietersen.
It felt young, had energetic punch and gave Pretorius a very funky make-over to boot.
Scenes from Verstikking; Nagvoël, Sporadies Nomadies, and Twintig Tone In ‘n Hangkas;
Other short films that impressed were Aan/Af rewarding Marlo Minnaar with a Best Actor award; Bergie by Dian Weys, who showed you could make impact in 7 minutes; Nagvoël, which told a cool superhero tale; Sporadies Nomadies, which explored the estranged relationship between a father and daughter; the wacky Twintig Tone In ‘n Hangkas; an intriguing Verstikking; and out-of-competition’s Die Vegan en die Jagter, which turns stereotypes on their head.
Something else to look out for is the Bafta-nominated Lakutshon’ Ilanga, which deservedly won an Oscar in 2021 in the Student-Academy section. It is a heart-wrenching local story of a young black nurse in 1985 apartheid South Africa who is trying to fend for her young activist brother. It is inspired by a true story, so many of which still have to be told, and reminds us of how far we have come and how long the road still stretches up ahead.
Both Karen Meiring (former KykNet channel director and founding member of the Silwerskerm) and Jan du Plessis (MNet content director) were honoured with Exceptional Contribution awards for their extraordinary service through the years.
And their input will keep giving to this festival, which in the past 10 years has had a huge impact on the local film industry – and it keeps expanding and embracing, which is a big reason for its success.
For more detail on the festival and the films and where they can be seen, go to www.silwerskerm.co.za.
All the shorfilms that premiered at the 10th Silwerskerm Film Festival are now available on DStv Now and Dstv Catch Up. The feature films will be on DStv Box Office, or released theatrically:
Gaia: Limited theatrical release:
CAPE TOWN: The Labia: 22, 23 April – https://www.webtickets.co.za/v2/event.aspx?itemid=1514006081
The Bioscope: 23, 28, 29 April – https://tickets.tixsa.co.za/event/special-screenings-of-gaia
DStv BoxOffice: From 22 April
boxoffice.dstv.com (no subscription needed)
Beurtkrag: DStv Box Office release – 16 June 2022.
Indemnity: Ster Kinekor theatrical release – 12 May at Ster Kinekor Theatres.
Vlugtig: DStv BoxOffice until 25 April 2022.
Down so long: Coming soon to DStv BoxOffice. Release date to be confirmed.
Stiekyt: Coming soon to DStv BoxOffice. Release date to be confirmed.