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Durban Docus Tackle Issues From African POV

At festival's Pitch Project, emphasis is on factual films, rather than features

Feature films took a back seat to documentaries on the third day of the 34th Durban Intl. Film Festival, where directors plugged upcoming projects during a pitch forum to financiers.

Eight docus were pitched at the Durban FilmMart project selection — five of them South African, and one apiece from Kenya, Algeria and Rwanda. They covered diverse issues, including race, labor relations, nature conservation, personal relationships … and strippers.

Claire Aguilar, from ITVS, found “all the pitches very strong.”

Aguilar said: “I’m always interested in projects about Africa because it’s really one of the places where we really don’t get a lot of stories outside of the news. So to get creative documentaries from Africa, especially told from Africans’ perspective, is very important. So that’s why it was important to come here.”

It was her first time at the Durban Intl. Film Festival and Durban FilmMart.

The eight docus under the microscope were “Behind the Falls” (directed by Rowan Pybus), “Blindness” (Sarah Ping Nie Jones), “GITI — Paradise in Hell” (Yves Montand Niyongabo), “Miners Shot Down” (Rehad Desai), “Not Just a Stripper” (Izette Mostert), “Searching for Janitou” (Mohamed el Anime Hattou), “Unearthed” (Jolynn Minaar), and “We Want Development” (Philippa Ndisi-Hermann).

The filmmakers were all applauded for their pitches. As a sample of the topics, Pybus’ 48-minute docu follows the lives of activists in Livingstone, Zambia, who aim to curb rampant deforestation in the country; Minaar’s “Unearthed” explores the controversial topic of fracking both in her country of South Africa and the U.S. Mostert takes the audience into the world of strippers to find out what led them to this career: Was it desperation, lack of education or a deliberate choice?

As many as 113 projects (82 features and 31 documentaries) were submitted for consideration for the official selection; 11 fiction projects were selected alongside the eight documentaries.

“They were very diverse, not only in terms of content, but approach and style,” said Aguilar of the documentaries.

The Durban FilmMart, which runs until July 22, is a joint venture between the city’s film office and the film festival.

The festival program itself includes a sizable section for documentaries. The 33-strong lineup includes South African docu “2 Men and a Wedding” (pictured), which world preemed in Durban. See here for Variety’s interview with director Sara Blecher.

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