Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

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

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them.

Darryl Accone
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


If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Subscribers only

R15m to rid Gauteng of dirty air

The World Bank is funding a plan to deal with air pollution in Ekurhuleni, Tshwane and Johannesburg

Reservations about ‘new deal’ for rhinos, lions, elephant, leopards

Draft policy promotes species playing their role in wilderness systems but one conservationist says leopards are being sold out

More top stories

Malawi moves to Maggie Mkandawire’s beat

Empowering her people through music and education, Maggie Mkandawire fights the Covid-19 pandemic in her own unique way

Vaccines split global recovery – IMF

The global economy will expand by 6% this year but the economic gap between nations is widening.

R15m to rid Gauteng of dirty air

The World Bank is funding a plan to deal with air pollution in Ekurhuleni, Tshwane and Johannesburg

The budget cuts that spite a nation’s face

Starving StatsSA of its ability to measure inequality may be a short-term face-saving strategy but it does not make the inequality disappear

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…