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Rich soil for new voices

Fest Traveler: Durban International Film Festival 2012

Africa’s vibrant filmmaking business and the diversity of the pictures it produces will be front and center at the 33rd edition of the Durban Intl. Film Festival.

The fest’s strong slate of pan-African pics includes award winners and entries from Tribeca, Cannes and Berlin. For the South African hosts, the event will showcase an industry that has labored through nearly two decades of post-apartheid growing pains but is, per producer Steven Markovitz, of Big World Cinema, “starting to find an authentic voice.”

More than 60 South African films will screen during the fest, including 16 features — more than in any previous edition.

Festival director Peter Rorvik says one of DIFF’s core missions is “creating a platform for South African product,” and this year’s fest should offer a strong springboard for the increasingly prolific industry.

“South Africa is rich with stories to tell,” Rorvik says. “Those narratives need to continue to be told.”

The production boom that South Africa has enjoyed over the past decade has reflected the growth of the festival itself. Though Durban played an important cultural role in the country during the apartheid era, offering a rare showcase for avant-garde and anti-apartheid films, it was a minor stop on the festival circuit when Rorvik took the reins in 1999, unspooling just a couple dozen films in a single theater.

This edition will feature nearly 300 screenings from more than 60 countries at 10 venues spread out across the balmy coastal city.

The fest will also take to the poor townships around Durban, offering screenings in places where movie theaters don’t exist. “We think it’s very important … to show South African and African product to communities that identify with the stories,” Rorvik says.

The festival’s ambitions are reflected in its growing reach across the continent. This year’s program includes a host of African award winners and competition titles from some of the film world’s most prestigious fests, including Rwandan helmer Kivu Ruhorahoza’s “Grey Matter,” which scooped two awards at Tribeca last year; Senegalese director Moussa Toure’s “The Pirogue,” which appeared in Un Certain Regard at Cannes; and the French-Senegalese helmer Alain Gomis’ “Tey,” which competed in Berlin.

Alongside the festival are a host of events aimed at building bridges between the African and global film worlds. The third annual Durban FilmMart will offer 23 projects from across Africa a chance to link up with international financiers. And the fifth edition of the popular Talent Campus Durban — a collaboration with the established Berlinale Talent Campus — will bring together 50 African filmmakers for five intensive days of workshops and training with foreign mentors.

According to Rorvik, the ambitious program illustrates Durban’s efforts to become the world’s premier platform for African film.

“We don’t just want to be South African,” he says. “We also want to feed into the continent as a whole.”

HIGHLIGHTS

Local Opener
Fest opens with “Elelwani,” by South African helmer Ntshaveni Wa Luruli.

Diversity on Display
DIFF’s program showcases the country’s growing diversity, screening Andrew Wessels’ “Blitz Patrollie,” written by Kagiso Lediga; laffer “Gog’ Helen,” directed by Adze Ugah; thriller “Fynbos,” by Harry Patramanis; and Philip Roberts’ slasher “One Last Look.”

3d Toon Closer
Nigerian/South African co-prod “Man on Ground,” directed by Akin Omotoso, arrives after winning a special jury award at the Africa Movie Academy Awards. Closing pic, “Adventures in Zambezia,” a 3D animated feature by Wayne Thornley and the acclaimed Triggerfish production team, showcases South Africa’s animation industry.

Africa Showcase
Durban platforms top African talent. Rwandan helmer Kivu Ruhorahoza’s “Grey Matter” scooped two awards at Tribeca. Senegalese director Moussa Toure’s “The Pirogue” screened in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard, while French-Senegalese helmer Alain Gomis’ “Tey” competed in Berlin. Rumbi Katedza’s “Playing Warriors” gives the chick-pic genre a Zimbabwean twist. “Nairobi Half Life,” by Kenyan helmer Tosh Gitonga, will get its world premiere.

Co-prod Mart
Alongside fest, third Durban FilmMart runs July 20-23. It’s Africa’s biggest international co-production market, with 23 projects courting foreign financiers. This year’s French focus includes a prize from Franco-German web Arte and a pre-sales prize by Canal Film Intl.

Fest Traveler: Durban International Film Festival / Scout & About: South Africa
Rich soil for new voices | Tax rebates, new studios pull production south | Biz returns to the boom times of 2009

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