Otelo Burning

The 32nd Durban International Film Festival kicks off on July 21st with the World Premiere of the South African film Otelo Burning, directed by Sara Blecher.  Set during the last days of apartheid, the Durban-shot film tells the story of a group of South African township youngsters who discover surfing as an empowering escape from the political violence of the times. There is drama, romance, rivalry, and tragedy in this convincing fulfillment of local filmmaking potential.

The festival, which runs July 21st to 31st will feature a lineup of international films including the South African premiere of Oliver Hermanus’s Skoonheid from this year’s Cannes film festival.  DIFF will also present the World Premieres of Charlie Vundla’s noir film How To Steal 2 Million, John Barker’s thrilling heist flick 31 Million Reasons, Faith Isiakpere’s crime drama The Algiers Murders, Eldorado by new talents Shaldon Ferris and Lorreal Ferris, the hilarious comedy Taka Takata by Damir Radonic, and The Dream by Zuko Nodada. Making their African Premieres are Mukunda Michael Dewil’s psychological thriller Retribution and Paula van der Oest’s moving film about Ingrid Jonker, Black Butterflies.

DIFF 2011 includes the African Premiere of Terrence Malick’s The Tree Of Life, which won the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Other highlights include Woody Allen’s Midnight In Paris, which will close the festival, Bela Tarr’s The Turin Horse, Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Elena, Jose Padilha’s Elite Squad 2 – The Enemy Within, Takeshi Kitano’s Outrage, Michel Ocelot’s Tales Of The Night, SJ Clarkson’s Toast, Lee Chang-dong’s Poetry, and Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives.

African cinema will also be well-represented by Djo Tunda Wa Munga’s  Viva Riva!, Nigerian director Andrew Donsunmu’s visually beautiful Restless City, Justin Chadwick’s uplifting Kenya-set film The First Grader, and Ebrahim El Batout’s Hawi which first appeared in Durban as a project at the inaugural Durban FilmMart in 2010.

DIFF will focus on two national cinemas this year: India and Canada. Six films from Indian filmmaker vet Satyajit Ray will be presented, alongside new works by talented new Indian filmmakers. Leena Manimekelai will present the World Premiere of her film The Dead Sea and other Indian films include Onir’s I Am, Sanjoy Nag’s Memories In March, Kaushik Mukherjee’s Bengali hip hop film Asshole, and Aamir Bashir’s Autumn.

For Canadian cinema, DIFF will present Denis Villeneuve’s Oscar-nominated Incendies, the gritty drama Jo For Jonathan, Ed Gass-Donnelly’s Small Town Murder Songs, Xavier Dolan’s ravishing Heartbeats, and the quirky Familiar Ground by Stephane Lafleur. Canadian documentaries include Barry Steven’s Prosecutor, a fascinating look at the International Criminal Court, and Shannon Walsh’s St. Henri, The 26th Of August.

Germany is also well-represented at DIFF 2011 with Tom Tykwer’s Three, Pia Marais’ At Ellen’s Age, Ulrich Kohler’s Sleeping Sickness and the stunning documentary El Bulli – Cooking In Progress by Gereon Wetzel.

Local stories in the powerful documentary line-up include World Premieres such as Ryley Grunewald’s The Dawn of a New Day where healing is shown as being more than skin deep, Mickey Dube’s Sobukwe, A Great Soul about one of this country’s most influential, but unsung, heroes, the Keith Jones/Deon Maas music revolution collaboration Punk In Africa, and the Dara Kell/Chris Nizza collaboration Dear Mandela about innovative leadership emerging in informal settlements. Not to be missed, DIFF will present the African premiere of Mama Africa, the inspirational film about Miriam Makeba.

Environmental films are included in this year’s Eco-Lens focus. There is heated Irish village resistance to Shell in The Pipe; Blood in the Mobile shows how frightening mining conditions in the DRC produce material for our cellphones; and, fresh from Cannes, The Big Fix exposes corruption and cover-ups surrounding the Mexican Gulf oil spill. Countdown to Zero (by Lucy Walker whose Waste Land won big awards in 2010) is about nuclear weapons and challenges to disarmament, while Into Eternity covers nuclear waste storage. Eco-Pirate- the Story of Paul Watson is about this legendary defender of our oceans and its creatures (Paul Watson will attend the festival).

Also on the lineup is the documentary, Sing Your Song, which follows the story of Harry Belafonte from his music and film career to his involvement in civil rights and anti-apartheid movements. A special highlight will be Leonard Retel-Helmrich’s tracking of an Indonesian family in Position Among the Stars which won top awards at both Sundance and IDFA.

Look out also for King Naki, a beautiful story of struggle and achievement set around horse-racing in the rural Transkei, the Cape Town film The Imam and I , and the Durban-shot Street Kids United.

The global financial meltdown is the focus of the 2011 Academy Award winning Inside Job, while John Pilger’s biting The War You Don’t See is a timely investigation into the media’s role in war. Other documentaries cover Bollywood, Robert Mugabe, the Black Power movement in America, organic agriculture, paraplegic musicians in Kinshasa, and West Indian cricket. Packages of short documentaries and short films are also on offer.

Opening with an outdoor screening on the beachfront on 24th July, DIFF will host the Wavescapes Surf Film Festival for the 7th consecutive year – a six-day blast of red-hot wave action, surf stories and groundbreaking cinematography.

DIFF will also continue to continue to feature the industry workshops for filmmakers and industry professionals, local and international, including Talent Campus Durban and Durban FilmMart.

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