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The Violin Player
The Violin Player

The winners of the 2016 Durban International Film Festival awards were announced at the closing ceremony of the festival’s 37th edition prior to the screening of the closing film, The Space in Between – Marina Abramovic and Brazil.

The award for the Best Feature Film went to The Violin Player directed by Bauddhayan Mukherji.

Dishevelled and unemployed, a failed violinist spends his days doing menial domestic chores while his wife is away at work. One day, after a depressing gig, the unexpected happens when a mysterious man on a train makes him an offer he can t refuse. What follows is a riveting tale that sees the violinist following his strange new client through the back alleys of the city, until they happen upon an abandoned building. But is it as empty as it seems?

The jury’s citation said: “A seductive and mysterious tale of a violin player’s mundane life and an interesting take on how chance encounters are almost predestined. By successfully weaving offbeat editing, brave cinematography, simple screenplay, honest direction and a lot of surprising elements, the film shows us that art, no matter how unimportant it may seem, can change peoples lives. “

The award for Best South African Feature Film went to Tess, directed by Meg Rickards, which the jury described as “a measured and uncompromising debut feature.”

Tess is a hard-hitting drama based on Tracey Farren’s award winning novel Whiplash and follows the story of Tess, a Muizenberg sex worker whose life is turned upside down when she falls pregnant, and has to fight to stop her past from swallowing her whole.

The Best Documentary award went to Martha and Niki directed by Tora Mkandawire Martens, which the jury describes as “visual feast that skillfully intertwines a profound reflection on (an) art form with the inner journey of two compelling characters.”

In 2010 Martha Nabwire and Niki Tsappos participated in the biggest international Street Dance Competition, Juste Debout in Paris  and won. As the first two women to become World Champions of Hip Hop, this film depicts their love of dance, their dedication to each other and their trials and tribulations as their friendship is put to the test. A dance-lovers treat, this is a story about desires, yearning and finding the right path in life that will appeal to many.

The jury made a special mention of Action Commandante, also a former Durban FilmMart project, by Nadine Cloete, for “its exceptional quality and commitment to its subject matter.”

Action Kommandant is the untold story of slain South African liberation fighter, Ashley Kriel. During the oppressive apartheid era Ashley was known as the Che Guevara of Cape Town’s notorious ‘Cape Flats’. Born into a single-mother, working class family in Bonteheuwel, he grew to become the symbol of 1980s youth resistance. The film opens with the voice of Ashley’s mother, Ivy Kriel. This audio interview travels with us throughout the film as it introduces various chapters of Ashley?s life. The film traces this guerrilla soldier’s development from being a member of the progressive BYM through to joining Umkhonto WeSizwe. What happened to him in the Umkhonto Wesizwe camps? Will we ever find the truth about his death?

The Best SA Documentary went to The Journeymen, directed by Sean Meterlekamp. The citation from the jurors said “The Journeymen takes an unflinching look at who we are by holding up the proverbial mirror to South African society. The honesty, bravery and commitment of the film crew results in a mosaic picture of our country with warts and all. This is strong and uncompromising cinema that is simultaneously disturbing and life-affirming.”

The Journeymen is set in 2014, the year in which South Africa celebrated 20 years of democracy and mourned Nelson Mandela’s death. The film chronicles the free-wheeling journey of three South African photographers (Sean Metelerkamp, Sipho Mpongo and Wikus De Wet) across the country as they explore the current state of South Africa with GoPro cameras strapped to their chests, feeling its pulse and asking the question “Has Mandela’s vision of equality in a rainbow nation been achieved?” The film answers this question with a kaleidoscopic set of responses that is disturbing, beautiful, thought provoking and, more than anything, movingly surreal. The film shows the underlying demons of our troubled national soul but also its deep and profound beauty. Made with technology that is widely accessible, the film is also a vibrant call to arms for new modes of filmmaking and fresh approaches to narrative.

Best Short Film went to Grandma’s Day (Dzie’n Babci) directed by Milosz Sakowski. The jury also made special mention in this category of the film Ave Maria directed by Basil Khalil.

The Best African Short Film Award, which is supported by the Gauteng Film Commission, went to New Eyes directed by Hiwot Admasu.

eKhaya (Home), directed by Shubham Mehta won the Best South African Short Film award, which is also supported by the Gauteng Film Commission.

The shorts jury also made special mention of two other films in this category – Amagugu directed by Ndududo Shandu and Discovery of Fire directed by Gerhard Pretorius.

The Best Actor Award went to Mohsen Namjoo for his performance in Radio Dream, directed by Babak Jalali. The award for Best Actress went to Christia Visser for her role as Tess in Tess directed by Meg Rickards.

The awards for Best Direction went to Ciro Guerra for Embrace Of The Serpent, Best Cinematography to Chris Lotz for The Endless River and Best Screenplay went to Ciro Guerra and Thoedor Koch-Grunberg for Embrace of The Serpent.

A new award, the Best Editing , sponsored by SAGE (South Africa Guild of Editors), went to the to Tess which was edited by Linda Man. The award for Artistic Bravery was given to Neon Bull directed by Gabriel Mascaro for its unique portrayal of a little-known community of Brazilian Rodeo workers.

The Amnesty International Durban Human Rights Award for the film that best reflects human rights issues which comes with a cash prize donated by the Artists for the Human Rights Trust went to Noma, directed by Pablo Pineda.

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