2016  Durban International Film Festival Emphasizes Continent with Lineup of Strong African Features & Shorts
Photo Credit: A feature length documentary exploring the final chapter in the life of one of the World’s great musical heroines.
Film

2016 Durban International Film Festival Emphasizes Continent with Lineup of Strong African Features & Shorts

A feature length documentary exploring the final chapter in the life of one of the World’s great musical heroines.
A feature length documentary exploring the final chapter in the life of one of the World’s great musical heroines.

With about half of all the films originating from the continent (Africa), and much of the rest of the program dealing with diasporic issues and identity politics, this year’s Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) aims to establish itself as a true festival of African film located within a global context.

Of the 101 feature-length films to be shown at the festival this year (June 16-26), the festival says that 50 are African films, including 17 fiction films and 9 documentaries, while there are 24 films that are specifically South African, including 10 fiction films and 14 documentaries.

Additionally, the festival’s lineup will include more than 90 short films, the majority of which are African and South African.

Now in its 37th year, DIFF aims to provide a strong program of world cinema for local audiences, featuring the kind of titles that would otherwise not get a showing on commercial screens in South Africa. Key titles from the continent’s ever-expanding film industry include films covered on this blog, like “As I Open My Eyes,” a powerful personal tale told on the eve of Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution, “Naked Reality,” the latest film from provocative filmmaker Jean-Pierre Bekolo, Nakom, a haunting film about the conflict between tradition, modernity and love, “Ghostland,” about the loss of language and identity of indigenous Nambian people, and “I Shot Bi Kidude,” the long-awaited feature film about musical legend Bi Kidude, the Zanzibari-born Tanzanian Taarab singer.

Acting Festival Director Peter Machen spoke enthusiastically about this year’s program, stating, “This is my 27th year of attending the festival and it’s been incredible to watch the continual expansion of African cinema, as the industry slowly rebirths in the wake of colonialism. In those first years that I attended, there was virtually no African content, and it’s wonderful that an industry which exists against a background of enormous challenges is growing with such vigor. African cinema continues to grow more and more complex, offering a wealth of cinematic language that puts much of mainstream cinema to shame.”

In addition to the strong African Focus, other key areas include an emphasis on issues around indigenous rights and colonialism, a small program of films that deal with HIV (given the fact that the World Aids Conference will be taking place in Durban two weeks after the festival ends), and a rich series of films about dance and music.

There is a country focus on Dutch cinema, in recognition of the Dutch/South African Co-production Treaty, as well as a focus on Portuguese-language African film in partnership with Tri-Continental Film Festival.

“A festival such as the DIFF takes many years to build and grow, and involves the hard work of countless people,” said Machen. “I am pleased that one of the world’s leading showcases of African and global film will have a number of new venues this year, including the Playhouse, NuMetro Pavilion and various community centres around Durban, all of which will bring the festival to a greater and more diverse number of people,” says Machen. “Durbanites can look forward to another exciting and eclectic selection of films.”

The full program will be announced in the coming weeks, at which time I will provide highlights.

The 37th Durban International Film Festival is organised by the Centre for Creative Arts at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (a special project of the Deputy Vice Chancellor of Humanities, Cheryl Potgieter), with support from the National Film and Video Foundation, Durban Film Office, KwaZulu-Natal Film Commission, eThekwini Municipality, German Embassy, Goethe Institut, KwaZulu-Natal Department of Arts and Culture and a range of other valued partners.

For more information go to www.durbanfilmfest.co.za.

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