Arts&Pleasure THE INDEPENDENT on Saturday
22 June 2013 PAGE 12
Master on how to spread the magic
SIHLE MTHEMBU OUTH African feature films continue to be at the heart of the Durban International Film Festival. There will be 12 local feature films and 16 documentaries this year, making the line-up of one of the healthiest helpings of local films yet. Among the films are The Forgotten Kingdom, which is set in the hauntingly beautiful landscape of Lesotho. The film Felix is about a young boy who is intent on realising his dream of being a musician. Not wanting to be left out, Durban will also have a film set in the city – the thriller Durban Poison, directed by Andrew Worsdale. New festival director, film critic Peter Machen, said it was important when selecting the films for the festival to try to produce a diverse programme. “South African audiences and the film-watching community in general have a wide variety of interests. It’s important to cater to those interests as widely as possible,” he said. Machen said putting together the programme for local film had been a challenge. “You can see that there is a lot of exploration into genre film-making now,” he said. “But the biggest challenge is to take the films that are submitted and look at the focus areas and then try to get films that are the right fit for the festival and films that are pushing new boundaries in the local industry.” Among the other highlights, is Senegalese film Tall as the Baobab Tree, which deals with the story of a poor couple who try to sell their daughter into a forced marriage. It’s us, set in Kenya, deals with issues of identity and violence. Michael Winterboom’s latest film, The look of love, will also be at the festival, as will
INTERNATIONAL OFFERING: Cosmopolis, starring Robert Pattinson, deals with claustrophobia and American paranoia.
A FEAST OF FILM KwaZulu-Natal film lovers will be spoilt for choice this winter as the 34th Durban International Film Festival takes over cinemas from July 18 to 28. The festival will feature 72 feature films and 48 documentaries as well as local and international short films. seminal indie director Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers. The festival will also feature a series of workshops on filmmaking and conversational panels with the film-makers and actors who will be presenting their new movies. As for non-fiction films, local doccies continue to punch above their weight. The Devil’s Lair takes us deep into the labyrinth of a drug den in Cape Town, while Angels in Exile is the moving story of two impoverished children in Durban. This year, the festival will
introduce a marquee where visitors can enjoy food, mingle with film-makers and discuss the movies on show. Speaking about the importance of this, Machen said because the festival was aimed at the industry and the public, it must try to ensure the public took ownership of the event. “The Durban audiences are the people who really make the festival vibrant, and in previous years people have asked for a space where they can gather, relax and share their love for film,” he said. Machen added that even though many arts
organisations and events had folded in the past two years, the festival would continue due to secure local and international partnerships. “I have just come in this year and the most important thing for me was to not change a formula that works and that has been working for a long time,” he said. “We are glad that there are people from around the world who have faith in this festival and who recognise it as being an important part of the film dialogue in this country and the continent.” Among the partners this
year are the Durban Film Office, which helps to put together the Durban Film Mart. This is an event where producers and directors of documentaries and short films can submit briefs about films they want to make. If they are selected for the main programme, they get the opportunity to pitch to funders and producers from other countries. There will also be the Durban Talent Campus, cohosted by the Berlinale Talent Campus. The incubation programme is by invitation only and sees young filmmakers from around Africa
ENTHUSIASTIC: Film festival director Peter Machen says he and his team wanted to create a festival that is welcoming to the public. descend on Durban for a week of training and master classes. For more details of the festival programme, see www.cca.ukzn.ac.za. You can also contact the Centre for Creative Arts at 031 260 2506.
SET IN LESOTHO: The awardwinning The Forgotten Kingdom will represent South Africa in the festival.
LOCAL FLAVOUR: The longawaited thriller Durban Poison features at this year’s festival.
ANIMATED ENTRY: Created by Cape Town studio Triggerfish, Khumba showcases the rise of animation in South Africa.
Unmasking the wolves among us JAHMIL XT Qubeka is a cult figure in the South African film industry. With a wide knowledge of the medium and a quirky subversive habit, the 34-year-old director is something of a great South African maverick. Speaking about why he got into directing and what he thinks is the value of film in contemporary South Africa, Qubeka’s answer is simple: to continue the rich tradition of storytelling. “It’s unfortunate that I think the powers that be do not see it this way,” he says. “But for me film is the ultimate medium. It is the best and most powerful way of exporting culture. Everywhere you see the sense of nationalism, whether it’s fascist Germany or Hollywood America, you see that film is a common thread.” Having spent 13 years directing shorts, feature films and documentaries, Qubeka has only recently begun getting acclaim for his rich directorial style. It’s one that makes use of references and delves into genre film-making. His 2010
feature film A Small Town Called Descent was an elegiac recount of an investigation by the Scorpions into a xenophobic attack in a small town. This time, however, Qubeka has taken an entirely different route. In his production Of Good Report (the opening film at the festival), Qubeka creates the dark story of Parker Sithole, a seemingly stable teacher who begins to prey on vulnerable young girls. Billed as an African film noir, the story tackles a genre that is not commonly explored in South African film circles, which often leans towards more comedic stories. Qubeka said his inspiration for this film was a need to explore a new genre in an African setting. “I have always been interested in film-makers like Hitchcock and the way he set his films in both genre and location. With this film, I wanted to take viewers on a roller-coaster ride and show them something different, both stylistically and in terms of the actually story and narrative,”
SPANISH film lover Alvaro Vega is a smuggler of cultural contraband. As one of the most influential and most experienced distributors of film in the region his experience is almost unmatched, not only in Spain but around the world. Vega will be at the Durban film festival as part of the Durban film mart and he will give a masterclass on film distribution. Speaking about what it is that initially attracted him to the medium of film, Vega notes that he had always loved movies, but got into the industry by chance. “Film has this power from the very first time you watch a film. We grow up surrounded by its magic, so apart from how crazy you are about it, that attraction is something we all share. But I really never imagined myself working for the film industry,” he said. “I was looking for a new job. An offer from the marketing department of a distribution company that sounded exciting appeared; I got an interview and I didn’t know then I wanted or could belong to this industry,” he added. Now, having distributed dozens of high-profile films, including Martin Scorsese’s Rolling Stones documentary Shine a light, as well as many small independent productions, he has gained a lot of knowledge about what makes a film sell. According to Vega a successful marketing campaign depends on being able to connect with the audience. “I usually say a sentence in my lectures that is as bad as it is true. You don’t have a film, you have a product. Maybe it’s sad, it’s not what an artist wants to hear, but if you want to market your film there’s no option. You must deal with the market rules. It doesn’t matter if you like them or not. And some film-makers are often so concerned about their stories, their ideas, their personal points of view, their own enthusiasm, that they forget they are making movies for people. If we just want a piece of art for ourselves we can do whatever we like; if we want to reach an audience, we need to think about it,” he said. Speaking about some of the similarities between the Spanish and South African film industry, Vega said both
FILM FUNDI: Seminal Spanish film distributor Alvaro Vega will be speaking at the festival about how to market film internationally. countries shared the fact that Hollywood still had a lot of influence on the way people viewed and consumed films. “Both share the big influence the most successful Hollywood releases have on the yearly box office that leaves a small part of the market to be shared by the country’s own productions. A remarkable difference when both countries are similar in population is how while in South Africa a big title such as Ironman 3, for example, is released on 110 screens, in Spain it got 788.” Vega also noted that although there was a hunger for new stories, not a lot of African productions were screened in Europe and this needed to change. There are directors from the continent whose work excites him. “Unfortunately not many African films hit the European or the American market, so it’s not easy to approach this cinematic landscape as it deserves. We can mention Gavin Hood’s successful career, of course, and the eruption of Neill Blomkamp in the international scenario is also very remarkable, but I would highlight Abdellatif Kechiche as the example of how to make really interesting films and find your gap in the market,” he said. Vega added that this would be his first time in Durban and he was looking forward to meeting some of the filmmakers at the festival and speaking to them about their projects and how they could better leverage them for a global audience. “This is my first time in the city, in the country and, also, on the continent, so basically I am looking so much forward to arriving. “Once there, I hope to enjoy that mixture between a welldone job with the participants of the DFM and the discovery of this exciting new part of the world for me. “Being also in the city that hosted the Spanish football team during the last World Championship, I’m sure I’ll love my time in Durban,” he said.
THIS YEAR’S MUST-SEE FILMS
SUBVERSIVE: Director Jahmil XT Qubeka wanted to make a film noir because it is not a common genre in South Africa. he said. Critically acclaimed South African TV and theatre aficionado Mothosi Magano takes the lead as Parker Sithole and Petronella Tshuma plays his young love interest, Nolitha Ngubane. In a typically reserved performance, Magano takes us inside the tortured mind of his character. This, says Qubeka, lies at the heart of this dark and multilayered film. “There is a lot of ambiguity in South Africa among heterosexual males. There are a lot of us who look at young girls and think of them in sexual terms, whether we like it or not. That is why we have such high rape
BRINGING THE FIRE: Critically acclaimed actor Mothusi Magano plays Parker Sithole, a teacher who preys on one of his pupils, in Of Good Report. The film is opening at the Durban International Film Festival and will tour other festivals later in the year. stats,” said Qubeka. “So for me, it was important to try and document this mindset to bring it out in the open. Because there are wolves among us and this film is about unmasking those.” Qubeka also wanted to create a film that could be honest and entertaining while not trivialising the issue of inappropriate relationships. “I did not want to be overtly preachy about it, but also you try and make a film with integrity that does not just make a joke out of such a serious issue,” he said. Speaking about working with Magano, Qubeka said it was a weird experience because although Magano was a wellknown actor here, he was surprisingly quiet.
“Mothusi is undoubtedly my favourite South African actor. “Over the year and a half that I was writing this film, I was just workshopping with him and I wrote it with him in mind,” he said. “He is a very quiet person, but on set he doesn’t need much direction and when he is there, he brings the fire all the time.” Although he has no plans for distributing the film, Qubeka says there has been an interest from some festivals. “With my last two films, I had a lot of ambitions… With this one, for me it’s about making sure that the film travels and it gets seen by as many different people as possible – and then maybe spark some dialogue around this issue,” he said.
THE FORGOTTEN KINGDOM: This is perhaps the most reserved film of the year. It tells the story of a young man named Atang who travels on horseback across Lesotho to bury his father. The film is full of rich landscapes and documents the beauty of its setting. OF GOOD REPORT: The latest from director Jahmil XT Qubeka is bound to be subversive and full of inside jokes, a DNA that makes Qubeka’s films anything but boring. THE GRANDMASTER: Known for films like My Blueberry Nights, influential Chinese director Wang Kar Wai takes something of a departure with this film. The Grandmaster opened the Berlin film festival this year and is the story of a martial arts star. It is much more surrealist then what the director has become known for. THE PAST: From Ashgar Farhadi, the Iranian director of A separation, which scooped up awards at the 2011 edition of the festival and the best foreign language film Oscar, comes The Past. This film is already generating major buzz and could cement Farhadi as one of the most must-see directors around. KHUMBA: Bringing South African animation to the world, Cape Town based Triggerfish studios will debut their latest film, Khumba, which tells the story of a young zebra in the wild. COSMOPOLIS: Based on the novel by
purveyor of American paranoia Don Delilo, Cosmopolis makes its longoverdue debut in South Africa. Directed by David Cronenberg, the film chronicles a day in the life of a wealthy New Yorker. It features former Twilight heartthrob Robert Pattison. THE HUNT: From Danish director Thomas Vinterberg comes his latest awardwinning film, The Hunt. The movie tells the haunting story of a man who is being hunted after being wrongly accused of assaulting a child. Vinterberg previously directed films under the Dogma collective and is a contemporary of Lars von Trier. ME AND YOU: After more than a decade, sensual Italian director Bernado Bertolucci makes his way back behind the camera with this charged story about a teenager who lies to his parents and says he is going on a ski trip, but instead stays in a basement. THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES: From the director of Blue Valentine, and starring Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes and Ryan Gosling, this is a multiple-narrative film about love, trust and lies. AFRICAN GOTHIC: A co-production between South Africa and the US, African Gothic explores themes of identity and class in a dark and haunting way. Set in apartheid South Africa, the film is about a couple who want to stop a lawyer from revealing a family secret.