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DURBAN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL (article first published : 2006-06-8)

A selection of the best in current world cinema, most of which are premiere showings on the continent, will be on offer during the 27th Durban International Film Festival which takes place from June14 to 25. An extensive programme of over 300 screenings at 25 different venues across the Durban district will be augmented by free workshops and seminars to inspire young filmmakers and stimulate the film industry in KwaZulu-Natal.

With films from over 50 countries, the Durban International Film Festival opens a window onto filmmaking around the world, and through the magic medium of cinema enriches the public’s experience and understanding of the world. Including numerous award-winners, the line-up of cutting edge feature films is supplemented by a prime selection of topical documentaries and short films.

Bound to satisfy a broad spectrum of tastes, this cinematic tour of the world encompasses wide-ranging themes such as love, peace and war, identity and sexuality, struggles personal and political, and environmental and human rights issues, with plenty of music, comedy and adventure along the way. A highlight of the festival is the presence of local and international filmmakers who will present their films, interact with audiences, and participate in the extensive workshop and seminar programme.

The festival will open with one of the most talked-about and important films of the year: An Inconvenient Truth. Directed by Davis Guggenheim and featuring Al Gore, An Inconvenient Truth is a fascinating and frankly terrifying documentary on the impact of global warming and how this will affect the lives of everybody on planet Earth.

Some of the world's finest directors will have their new films showcased at the festival. These include Hidden by Michael Haneke, The Child by the Dardenne brothers, Offside by Jafar Panahi, Full or Empty by Abolfazl Jalili, Sympathy For Lady Vengeance by Park Chan-wook, Takeshis' by Takeshi Kitano, Invisible Waves by Pen-ek Ratanaruang, Memories of Mist by Buddhadeb Dasgupta, Manderlay by Lars Von Trier, Wassup Rockers by Larry Clark and, the closing film, A Prairie Home Companion by Robert Altman.

Alongside this, the DIFF presents work by an exciting new generation of directors such as Sri Lanka's Vimukthi Jayasundara (The Forsaken Land), Sarah Watt (Look Both Ways), Jason Reitman (Thank You For Smoking), Cho Chang-ho (The Peter Pan Formula), Andrew Bujalski (Mutual Appreciation), Miranda July (Me And You And Everyone We Know), Eliane de Latour (Birds Of Heaven), Zhang Lu (Grain In Ear), Simon Rumley (The Living And The Dead) and Atsushi Funahashi (Big River).

The festival will also present the leading African productions of the last year, including Early In The Morning by Gahité Fofana (Guinea) and Wrestling Grounds by Cheikh Ndiaye (Senegal). South African representation is a core component of the festival, with seven feature films, 19 documentaries and 18 short films. This includes Son of Man directed by Mark Dornford-May (who won the Golden Bear with U-Carmen eKhayelitsha), and Conversations on a Sunday Afternoon by Khalo Matabane. Durban filmmakers also get a chance to shine with the presentation of two new feature films made in Durban: I Wish I Was In Jail directed by Percy Langa and Bombay Duck directed by Ajay Hurbans. The festival also presents an Oscar-celebrating Youth day screening of Tsotsi with Presley Chweneyagae, and another South African achievement - the student Oscar winner Elalini.

The strong line-up of documentaries includes James Hersov's Heaven's Herds, centred on the significance of Nguni cattle, Rehad Desai's Bushman's Secret about the corporate exploitation of indigenous knowledge, Greg Streak's Beauty And The Beast, an exploration of the pollution problems in the South Durban Basin, and Hannan majid and Richard York's AmaZulu: The Children of Heaven, about a remarkable approach to schooling in Umlazi.

Six feature films from Iran will provide a glimpse into the strong aesthetic traditions of this unique filmmaking nation, currently much in the news for other reasons. A number of Iranian filmmakers will visit the festival to present their films. The festival will also focus on the remarkable cinema of Korea with five films in the selection, including Marathon by Chung Yoon-chul and A Bittersweet Life by Kim Jee-woon.

Following the success last year of the collaboration with the Wavescapes Surf Film Festival, and celebrating Durban's legendary status as Surf City, DIFF hosts a six-day focus on the cult genre of surf movies. Wavescapes opens with a special beachfront event at the Bay of Plenty lawns on June 17, using a giant inflatable screen.

The Festival Competition will culminate in a special Awards Night on June 24, where awards in 15 categories will be announced. Other special events include the Durban Film Office (DFO) Youth in Film Music Concert on June 16 in Gugu Dlamini Park, featuring Lebo Mathosa, ProKid, Slikour, and others, alongside a short-film programme, and a SABC script-writing competition for 10-15 year olds.

The African Refugee Cultural Day of activities at BAT Centre on June 17, includes the soukous groove of Young Ba Kuba (DRC) and homespun music by Madala Kunene. Wajahat Khan, the master sarod player from India, gives a one-off performance in conjunction with a special screening of the great Satyajit Ray's The Music Room on June 22 at Nu Metro Cinecentre, Suncoast.

Principal screening venues are Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre; Nu-Metro CineCentre SunCoast; Ster Kinekor Musgrave, Cinema Nouveau Gateway; Ekhaya Multi-Arts Centre in KwaMashu; BAT Centre, and Stable Theatre in Alice Street, with further screenings at tertiary institutions and in township areas where cinemas are non-existent.

Programme booklets with the full screening schedule and synopses of all the films will be available free at cinemas, Computicket, and other outlets towards the end of May. Full festival details can also be found on www.cca.ukzn.ac.za or by calling 031 260 2506 or 031 260 1650.

Organised by the Centre for Creative Arts (UKZN) the Durban International Film Festival is funded by National Film and Video Foundation, National Lottery Distribution Fund, HIVOS, Stichting Doen, and the City of Durban, with support from the Royal Netherlands Embassy, French Embassy, British Council, and a range of valued partners.




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