Durban film festival wrap up

With audience attendance reportedly up from last year, perhaps partially driven by the controversy around the banning of Of Good Report, it seems Peter Machen’s first year at the helm of the Durban International Film Festival (Diff) has proved a success. 

Asked about his plans for next year, Machen said: “I’m not going to fix anything that isn’t broken. Sure, we have to iron out some technicalities, but we have exciting plans in terms of format, and I also want to increase Diff’s presence in international media.”

Andrew Worsdale’s Durban Poison won the award for best South African feature, with the best feature award going to the Japanese poet and filmmaker Sion Sono’s The Land of Hope. Xavier Dolan of Canada took the prize for best direction for his film Laurence Anyways. Other awards included best South African short (to Duan Myburgh for The Brave Unseen) and best South African documentary (Billy Raftery’s Angels in Exile). 

Diff inaugurated a new category for artistic bravery and, perhaps inevitably, awarded it to Jahmil XT Qubeka for Of Good Report. Professor Cheryl Potgieter of the University of KwaZulu-Natal gave a special award to Machen for his outstanding contribution to the festival. 

On the business side, there was much debate about the role of film commissions, with examples such as Argentina, South Korea and South Australia historically having more success in advancing local narratives than their South African counterparts have been able to do. 

As the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) waits for an Act of Parliament to change its name to the South African Film Commission and to implement its new three-tier system of support for emerging filmmakers — and with increased bursaries and a themed short-film development programme — the body is doing much good. Still, there is concern that by trying to maintain control over narratives the NFVF is in danger of making itself irrelevant as a funding body. 

The big winner at the Durban FilmMart Awards for as-yet-unproduced work was Blindness (Kom Haal My), to be directed by Sarah Ping Nie Jones, which won both the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam Most Promising Documentary Award and the Paris Project Award. Two development grants of €2 500 each from WorldView went to Unearthed, to be directed by Jolynn Minnaar, and the Talent Campus Durban/Doc Station project Parole Camp, to be directed by Maanda Ntfandeni. Videovision Entertainment’s award, valued at R75 000, for best South African film project went to Five Fingers for Marseilles, to be directed and produced by Michael Matthews. The Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie’s OIF Prize of €5 000 was awarded to GITI — Paradise in Hell, to be produced and directed by Yves Montand Niyongab.

What these awards represent to the filmmakers is not only a small contribution to their budget but also a vote of confidence in their work, which enables them to pitch to bigger international forums.

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