DIFF: Get stoked at Wavescape where the movies are pumping

Surf’s up at the 36th Durban International Film Festival as a festival-in-a-festival rolls in. It’s appropriate that the 10th Wavescape Surf Festival, featuring fictions and documentaries about surf and beach culture, takes place in this city.

From aeons ago, I recall the allure attached to the words “Gunston 500”. Then there was Shaun Tomson, South Africa’s 1977 world surfing champion. And that surf flick that was so much more: Big Wednesday, often billed as the greatest film ever made about surfing.

It attained that mythical status because it was about far more than the elusive wave that came only when its pursuers, a group of high school friends in a small seaside town, had grown into disappointed, disaffected and exhausted adults.

Wavescape, say the Durban festival organisers, “celebrates a decade of films and events around ocean sustainability and beach culture”.

I don’t know how sustainable surfing in the Arctic really is (for the surfers, let alone anything else), but the stills from the film Arctic Swell, set in and off Alaska, beggar belief.

A wet-suited surfer carrying a white surfboard plays ebony and ivory against the landscape and his black-and-whiteness against snow and snow-capped coastal peaks. It’s a crazy sight.

The Cultural Revolution
On the Wavescape programme are three shorts that promise poetry and pounding surf: the Irish film Sea Fever, set to John Masefield’s poem; Edges of Sanity narrated by the always cool Charles Dance; and the intriguing Chasing Rumours, which swaps the unique hurly-burly of a Newcastle United football match at St James’s Park for the Tyne River where, as the old Lindisfarne song assures us, “the fog on the Tyne is all mine”.

The film Coming Home

On the world cinema section of the Durban festival, the forbidding environment of Inner Mongolia features in Jean-Jacques Annaud’s film version of Wolf Totem, based on the Chinese bestseller by Jiang Rong. Winner of the Man Asia literary prize, Rong’s novelised memoir is based on years he spent rusticated in the People’s Republic of China (Inner Mongolia is part of the PRC, as opposed to Mongolia – “Outer Mongolia” to Chinese cartographers’ imaginings).

Scion of a well-off, educated family dubbed bourgeois and therefore enemies of the people during the Cultural Revolution, Rong was sent away for a stint that would change his life, his conception of Chinese character and bestseller lists in China.

Rong’s thesis in Wolf Totem is that Chinese are too often like sheep: obedient, flocking together and timid. They should, instead, be more like the wolves he observed and grew to love in Inner Mongolia: brave, capable both of individual and collective action, and full of initiative and invention. It was a revolutionary and controversial idea, but did it sell books.

Drama, romance and vampire westerns
Another work inspired by and set during the Cultural Revolution is Coming Home, directed by a filmmaker who has become something of a Chinese classic himself – director Zhang Yimou.

This drama-romance is adapted from a novel by Geling Yan and continues the vein of regret that Zhang has mined when considering the Cultural Revolution. If you’ve not seen a film by the master, you might have seen his handiwork at the Beijing Olympics, for which he conceived and directed the opening and closing ceremonies.

Others to watch out for include Roger Allers’s animation of Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet, with the voices of Liam Neeson, Salma Hayek Pinault, Frank Langella and Alfred Molina among others; and A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, which audaciously self-styles itself as “the first Iranian vampire western”. 

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Darryl Accone
Darryl Accone has been in journalism for the best part of four decades. He is also a Fellow of the Salzburg Seminar and the International Writers Workshop of Hong Kong Baptist University and the author of ‘All Under Heaven: The Story of a Chinese Family in South Africa’ and ‘Euripides Must Die’.

Related stories

Vaccine trial results due in December

If successful, it will then have to be manufactured and distributed

Calls for climate change to top DA policy conference agenda

Some people in the Democratic Alliance apparently have a narrow view of what sustainability means, but voters are concerned about the climate crisis

White men still rule and earn more

Women and black people occupy only a few seats at the JSE table, the latest PwC report has found

Cameroon’s tomato industry rots

The country usually exports 10 000 tonnes of the crop each year. But Covid-19 rules have stopped the trade and are ruining farmers

Carlos on quaranting the ANC’s corrupt

The ANC has a solution for cadres: Wait until the next news cycle. Rinse. Repeat.

‘Courageous reinvention’: an extract from Mark Gevisser’s ‘The Pink Line’

In this extract from Mark Gevisser’s new book, Aunty, fleeing abuse and witchcraft, treks to northern Malawi

Vaccine trial results due in December

If successful, it will then have to be manufactured and distributed

White men still rule and earn more

Women and black people occupy only a few seats at the JSE table, the latest PwC report has found

ANC still at odds over how to tackle leaders facing...

The ANC’s top six has been mandated to work closely with its integrity committee to tackle claims of corruption against senior party members

The PPE scandal that the Treasury hasn’t touched

Many government officials have been talking tough about dealing with rampant corruption in PPE procurement but the majority won't even release names of who has benefited from the R10-billion spend

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday