This year, for its 42nd edition, the DIFF (Durban International Film Festival) festival presents a programme of about 140 feature films, documentaries and short films, a treasure trove to choose from. There’s nothing like watching the real and fictional stories of others to distract us from our own problems for a transient-while. But what are the films that ASA suggests you can’t miss?
The Eagle’s Nest
Directed by Cameroon-born British director, Olivier Assoua, the film set in Cameroon, has been chosen as the opening film of the festival. It follows two best friends, Paris and Samantha, both born to poor families in rural Africa. During a night of debauchery, the two discover a large amount of money, setting off a violent chain of mayhem and murder. Their search for the truth sends them into a world of lies, deceit and betrayal. On a broader scale, it’s about immigration and poverty in Africa as well as two friends with differing aspirations.
Why watch it? It’s an award-winning thrill ride, while still examining social issues on a deeper level.
A Little Bird Reminds Me
In the coming-of-age story directed by Shi Xin, we follow the joys, sorrows and struggles of a Chinese boy and his family during the last decade of the 20th century. Born into the theatre, Xing’s life takes twists and turns beyond his control as he strives to become a man of honour.
Why watch it? It’s a slice of a particular time and place rarely captured with such poignancy on screen.
A daring and talented Bangladeshi teenage girl disguises herself as a boy and takes on the dangers of the big city, Bangladesh. She drives her father’s rickshaw to supplement the family income. Based on the acclaimed bestselling young adult novel, it displays insight into life in India as a developing nation.
Why watch it? It’s heartfelt, fascinating and an uplifting tale of bravery, captured with breathtaking beauty.
Directed by Cássio Pereira dos Santos, this topical film explores the trials of a 17-year-old Brazilian trans-girl and her mother. They move to a new town in order to start afresh and to escape bullying, but quickly face challenges when the local high school demands a second parental signature for enrolment. It’s about overcoming the hardships she has to endure.
Why watch it? It’s relevant to LGBTQ issues and has won numerous awards.
This film follows the spiralling journey of the protagonist, Nandi, into the dark underbelly of the South African criminal world. Nandi and Carl are two meth addicts who are forced to turn to prostitution to feed their habits. This comes at a high personal cost as they encroach on the territory of Moth, a violent pimp. Things become more complicated when they stumble across a bag filled with Moth’s drugs and steal it… The scene is set for drama.
Why watch it? It’s a compelling, authentically told tale that manages to keep the tension and build real empathy for its characters.
After losing everything because of climate change, three women from Kenya, The Caribbean and India are forced to migrate to start new lives.
Why watch it? Duh! It’s about the biggest threat to humanity.
Director Areum Parkkang juggles her film and her marriage in this autobiographical documentary from Korea. As she begins to work in France, her husband does the housework and can’t read or speak the language, and ultimately falls into a depression. How can they manage it?
Why watch it? It’s an engrossing slice of someone’s challenge to balance their work and their relationship, as well as tackling mental health issues.
A film about a city (Cape Town), a country (South Africa) and a continent plagued by ills stemming from inequality. Directed by Solomon Staggie, him and his brothers became the leaders of the most feared street gang in Africa. Frightening but insightful.
Why watch it? The inside truth about gangsterism in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
I Am Here
We meet the phenomenal 98-year old Holocaust survivor, Ella Blumenthal, through the eyes of director Jordy Sank. She shares harrowing memories of her past traumas in three concentration camps, yet also her enthusiasm for life, despite all that’s happened to her.
Why watch it? It’s a life-affirming story of survival and a universal message of resilience.
Director Aliki Saragas Georgiou shares a lyrical telling of Regina Mary Ndlovu’s story. She’s a survivor of a lifetime of sexual abuse, and a fierce Zambian woman with Albinism. She’s determined to create a future that she’s proud of, and that includes starting her own online talk show to fight the stigmas surrounding albinism and confront her personal history.
Why watch it? She bravely fights each day to overcome her past and that’s uplifting.
The Sit-In, Harry Belafonte Hosts The Tonight Show
While the USA was embroiled with racial tensions, civil rights activist and trailblazing performer, Harry Belafonte, guest-hosted The Tonight Show for one week in 1968. Belafonte took a predominantly white institution, The Tonight Show, and transformed it into a multicultural and political experience.
Why watch it? It contains vibrant interviews with Belafonte, Whoopi Goldberg, Questlove, Petula Clark, Dionne Warwick, Freda Payne and features rare archival footage including interviews with Dr Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy.
The festival opens on July 22nd
Book your free tickets at: https://www.durbanfilmfest.com
Words: Nikki Temkin @Nikki Temkin
Editor: Nikki Temkin
Images: Courtesy of DIFF