You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Durban Showcases African Film Renewal

34th edition bows July 18 with 'Of Good Report'

Opening on July 18, the Durban Intl. Film Festival now ranks as one of the longest running, biggest and fastest growing of major African film events and a burgeoning platform for business in South Africa and beyond.

And if Durban’s 34th edition says anything about new film production in Africa, it’s “a sense of renewal of African cinematic language,” said new festival manager Peter Machen.

In this sense, the choice of Jahmil XT Qubeka’s grisly “Of Good Report” as a curtain raiser was a statement of intent. Shot in b/w, laced by literary references — John Keats’ “Bright Star,” “Othello” are two — and described by Qubeka as a “cinephile’s passionate homage” to classic film noir, “Report” charts a English teacher’s discombobulated and soon increasingly demented obsession for a lively student with whom he begins an affair.

For Machen, “This year’s African and South African films have a freshness to them, are engaged in exploring new ways of making films.”

“Report” is “far from the Hollywood-style narratives” which often dominate local productions, Machen added, also citing Nick Reding’s Kenya’s “It’s Us,” a peace movement agit-prop film combining theater and on-location fiction, and “Tall as a Baobab Tree,” a Senegal-set forced marriage tale, which both avoid “conventional dramatic mechanisms.”

Popular on Variety

Of other recent departures for South African cinema, Durban’s “Blood Tokoloshe,” is a near no-cost township horror B movie, from South Africa’s Orange Farm.

Clocking up 40 distribution deals for Edward Noeltner’s Cinema Management Group, 3D “Khumba” weighs in at Durban as the flagship of South Africa’s burgeoning animated feature industry, plus Triggerfish Animation Studios’ follow-up to DIFF 2012 best South African film winner “Adventures in Zambezia.”

This year’s African Focus titles often turn on violence.

For Machen, however, “what is significant is the really large proportion of films about people who have made mistakes.”

In “Layla Fourie,” the third film from South African-born and Berlin-based Pia Marais whose debut, “The Unpolished,” shared Durban’s best first feature plaudit in 2007, a young polygraphist tries to assuage her guilt after a hit-and-run car accident.

Another buzzed-up title, Belfast-based Phil Harrison’s “The Good Man,” is set in the two post-conflict societies of Northern Ireland and South Africa.

“Something Necessary,” from the Tom Tykwer-backed One Fine Day Films and Nairobi’s Ginger Ink, recounts a love affair in the aftermath of Kenya’s 2007 violence.

“These are films about people coming to terms with violence as opposed to films just chronicling it,” Machen said.

“It might have something to do with a global society attempting to acknowledge and confront reality, rather than letting it push past us.”

Durban closes with “Free Angela and All Political Prisoners,” Shola Lynch’s review of the kidnapping which brought academic and social activist Angela Davis to fame in 1970.

Peppered by world premieres, Durban’s African Focus remains its centerpiece. Other sections range over the globe, from American Independents to Contemporary Europe, Sexual Identities, Zombiefest! World Cinema and Feast of Doccies.

Durban’s main 24-title competition features prestige arthouse and crossover titles, such as, of African titles, “Layla Fourie,” and, beyond Africa, “Only God Forgives,” Chilean Sebastian Lelio’s “Gloria,” and “The Past,” from Iran’s Asghar Farhadi.

Bowing in 1979 when it operated as a semi-underground event screening films banned under South Africa’s apartheid regime, the Durban Film Festival saw spectacular last-decade growth under Monica and Peter Rorvik.

Pursuing strategic partnerships, it added a parallel Wavescape Surf Film Festival in 2005, then Talent Campus Durban, teaming with the Berlinale, in 2008.

Organized with the Durban Film Office, the Durban FilmMart (DFM), a finance and co-production forum and master-class and networking event, launched in 2010. This year it will showcase 23 projects from Africa.

Non-African attendees to DIFF were in single figures early last decade. Last year, there were hundreds of invited guests from around the world. DIFF admissions ran at 32,000 last year, per Machen.

“32,000 is really quite a significant number for South Africa, where much of the population lives in townships or areas without access to cinema theaters,” said Joanna Sterkowicz, editor of Screen Africa.

Appointed in April, and a DIFF programmer for seven years, Machen certainly doesn’t want “to fix something that isn’t broken.”

New initiatives are select: a Zombiefest! spread, a first Wild Talk sidebar of nine natural history films, put on with Durban Wild Talk Africa, and a new The Films That Made Me repertory section, presented this year by Qubeka.

“African film-makers have difficult access to film history, Machen explained.

For the future, he would like to make Durban “more of a red-carpet event,” he added. He will certainly continue to bus in school children for early morning screenings.

“Many of these kids have never been in a cinema before. Watching movies with them is amazing, they’re so engaged, so caught up, attentive. It’s a beautiful thing to behold.”



“Closed Curtain,” (Jafar Panahi, Kamboziya Partovi, Iran)
“Fat Shaker,” (Mohammad Shirvani, Iran, 2013)
“Francine,” (Melanie Shatzky, Brian M. Cassidy, U.S., Canada)
“Gloria,” (Sebastián Lelio, Chile, Spain)
“Halley,” (Sebastian Hoffmann, Mexico, The Netherlands)
Laurence Anyways,” (Xavier Dolan, Canada, France)
“Layla Fourie,” (Pia Marais, Germany, South Africa, France, The Netherlands)
Of Good Report,” (Jahmil XT Qubeka, South Africa)
“Only God Forgives,” (Nicolas Winding Refn, France, Denmark)
“Penumbra,” (Eduardo Villanueva, Mexico)
“Something Necessary,” (Judy Kibinge, Germany, Kenya)
“Sunshine Boys,” (Kim Tae-Gon, South Korea)
“Tall As The Baobab Tree,” (Jeremy Teicher, Senegal, U.S.)
“The Battle of Tabato,” (Joao Viana, Guinea-Bissau, Portugal)
“The Forgotten Kingdom,” (Andrew Mudge, Lesotho, South Africa)
“The Future,” (Alicia Scherson, Chile, Germany, Italy, Spain)
“The Grandmaster,” (Wong Kar-wai, Hong Kong SAR China)
“The Hunt,” (Thomas Vinterberg, Denmark)
“The Land of Hope,” (Sion Sono, Japan, U.K., Taiwan, Germany)
“The Past,” (Asghar Farhadi, France, Italy)
“Wadjda,” (Al-Mansour Haifaa, Saudi Arabia, Germany)
“Watchtower,” (Pelin Esmer, France, Germany, Turkey)
“Yema,” (Djamila Sahraoui, Algeria, France)
“Youth,” (Tom Shoval, Israel, Germany, France)


“Of Good Regard,” (Jahmil XT Qubeka, South Africa)
“Free Angela – and all political prisoners,” (Shola Lynch, U.S., France)
“Layla Fourie,” (Pia Marais, Germany, South Africa, France, Netherlands)
“The Forgotten Kingdom,” (Andrew Mudge, South Africa, Lesotho)
“Felix,” (Roberta Durrant, South Africa)
“The Good Man,” (Phil Harrison, South Africa, U.K., Ireland)
“Everyman’s Taxi,” (Ian Roberts, South Africa )
“Durban Poison,” (Andrew Worsdale, South Africa)
Khumba,” (Anthony Silverston, South Africa )
“Blood Tokoloshe,” (Jordan Harland, South Africa )
“Angel of the Skies” (Christopher Lee-Dos Santos, South Africa)
“Actorholic,” (Oliver Rodger, South Africa)
“African Gothic,” (Gabriel Bologna, U.S., South Africa)
“Tall As The Baobab Tree,” (Jeremy Teicher, Senegal)
“Yema,” (Djamila Sahraoui, Algeria)
“Virgin Margarida,” (Licinio Azevedo, Mozambique, France, Portugal)
“The Battle of Tabato,” (Joao Viana, Guinea-Bissau, Portugal )
“Le Presidente,” (Jean-Pierre Beloko, Cameroon, Germany)
“Something Necessary,” (Judy Kibinge, Germany, Kenya )
“It’s Us,” (Nick Reding, Kenya)


“Ginger and Rosa,” (Sally Potter, U.K., Denmark )
“The Look of Love,” (Michael Winterbottom, U.K.)
“Me and You,” (Bernardo Bertolucci, Italy)


“Wrong,” (Quentin Dupieux, U.S., France)
“Spring Breakers,” (Harmony Korine, U.S.)
“Francine,” (Brian M. Cassidy, Melanie Shatzky, U.S., Canada)
“The Place Beyond The Pines,” (Derek Cianfrance, U.S.)


“Vic + Flo Saw a Bear,” (Dennis Cotes, Canada)
“Valentine Road,” (Marta Cunningham, U.S.)
“Interior. Leather Bar.,” (James Franco, Travis Mathews, U.S.)
Laurence Anyways,” (Xavier Dolan, Canada)
“Dust, ” (Adam Dugas, Casey Spooner, U.S.)
“Two Mothers,” (Anne Zohra Berrached, Germany)
“The Future,” (Alicia Scherson, Chile, Germany, Italy, Spain)
“It Felt Like Love,” (Eliza Hittman, U.S.)
Una Noche,” (Lucy Mulloy, U.S., U.K., Cuba)
“Pussy Riot – A Punk Prayer,” (Mike Lerner, Maxim Pozdorovkik, Russia, U.K.)
“I Am Divine,” (Jeffrey Schwarz, U.S.)
“Born This Way,” (Shaun Kadlec, Deb Tullmann, U.S., Cameroon)


“Evil Dead,” (Fede Alvarez, U.S.)
“Zombie Fever 3D,” (Kirill Kemnits, Russia)
“Halley,” (Sebastian Hoffmann, Mexico, Netherlands)
“Frankenstein’s Army,” (Richard Raaphorst, Netherlands, U.S. )
“Harold’s Going Stiff,” (Keith Wright, U.K.)


“The Grandmaster,” (Wong Kar-wai, Hong Kong)
“Closed Curtain,” (Jafar Panahi, Iran)
“Cosmopolis,” (David Cronenberg, France, Canada)
“Outrage Beyond,” (Takeshi Kitano, Japan)
“The Hunt,” (Thomas Vinterberg, Denmark)
“The Past,” (Ashgar Farhadi, France, Italy)
“Midnight’s Children,” (Deepa Mehta, Canada, U.K.)


“The Devil’s Lair,” (Riaan Hendricks, South Africa)
“Touching The Dragon,” (Damon Foster, Craig Foster, South Africa)
“Angels in Exile,” (Billy Raftery, South Africa)
“The Creators,” (Laura Gamse, Jacque de Villiers, South Africa, U.S.)
“Drama Consult,” (Dorothee Wenner, Germany, Nigeria)
“African Metropolis,” (Various, Egypt, South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast)
“The Spirit of ’45,” (Ken Loach, U.K.)
“More Than Honey,” (Markus Imhoof, Germany, Austria, Switzerland)
“Algorithms,” (Ian McDonald, India)
“Fidai,” (Damien Oumouri, France, Algeria, Kuwait, Qatar, China, Germany, U.K.)


“Bending Colors (Jordy Smith),” (Kai Neville, South Africa, Reunion, Hawaii, Indonesia)
“Revolution,” (Rob Stewart, 15 countries)
“The Heart and the Sea,” ( Nathan Oldfield, Australia, New Zealand, France, Spain)
“Immersion,” (Tim Bonython, Australia, Tahiti)
“Desert Rebels,” (Adrian Charles, South Africa)
“Water From The Moon,” (Arya Subyakto, Sumatra)


“Mapantsula,” (Oliver Schmitz, South Africa, U.K.)
“Ran,” (Akira Kurosawa, Japan, France )
“Midnight Cowboy,” (John Schlesinger, U.S.)
“Quest For Fire,” (Jean Jacques Annaud, Canada, France)
“Koyaanisqatsi,” (Godfrey Reggio, U.S.)


“2 Wings Many Prayers,” (Lloyd Ross, South Africa)
“A Return To The Sea,” (Otto Whitehead, Lauren De Vos, South Africa)
“A Wild Dog’s Tale,” (Richard Matthews, Brad Bestelink, Botswana, South Africa)
“Amazing Grace,” (Rowan Pybus, Zambia)
“Bidder 70,” (Beth Gage, George Gage, U.S.)
“Broken Tail,” (John Murray, Colin Stafford-Johnson, Ireland)
“Natural World: Queen Of The Savannah,” (Verity White, U.K.)
“Radioactive Wolves,” (Klaus Feichtenberger, Austria)
“Ten Quintillion,” (Romilly Spiers, Australia)
“The Animal Communicator,” (Craig Foster, Swati Thiyagarajan, South Africa)
“The Arctic Giant,” (Adam Schmedes, Denmark)
“The Beauty of the Irrational,” (Dean Leslie, South Africa)
“The Unlikely Leopard,” (Beverly Joubert, Dereck Joubert, Botswana)
“Treibjagd,” (Christiane Hitzemann, Germany)

“36,” (Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit, Thailand)
Comrade Kim Goes Flying,” (Kim Gwang Hun, Nicholas Bonner, Anja Daelemans, Belgium, U.K., North Korea)
“Great Expectations,” (Mike Newell, U.K.)
“Mobile Home,” (Francois Pirot, France, Belgium)
“No,” (Pablo Larrain, Chile, France, U.S.)
“Rust and Bone,” (Jacques Audiard, France, Belgium)
“The Reluctant Fundamentalist,” (Mira Nair, India, Pakistan, U.S.)
“Bomb It 2,” (Jon Reiss, U.S.)
“Captain Kang,” (Won Ho-Yeon, South Korea)
“Casting By,” (Tom Donahue, U.S.)
“Chickens Can Fly,” (Paulene Abrey, Luaan Hong, South Africa)
“Far Out Isn’t Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story,” (Brad Bernstein, U.S.)
I Am Breathing,” (Emma Davie, Morag McKinnon, Denmark)
“Jeppe On A Friday,” (Shannon Walsh, Arya Lalloo, South Africa, Canada)
“Light and Dark,” (Paulene Abrey, South Africa)
“My Afghanistan: Life In The Forbidden Zone,” (Nagieb Khaja, Denmark, Norway)
“No Burqas Behind Bars,” (Nima Sarvestani, Sweden)
“Norman Catherine Curriculum Vitae,” (Paulene Abrey, South Africa)
“Orania,” (Tobias Lindner, Germany, South Africa)
“Salma,” (Kim Longinotto, U.K., India)
“State 194,” (Dan Setton, Israel, Palestinian Territories, U.S.)
“The Absent Column,” (Nathan Eddy, Filipe Lima, U.S.)

More Film

  • Jenna Coleman The Cry

    Great Point Media Teams With MC Credit Partners on New Film and TV Finance Initiative

    Britain’s Great Point Media is partnering with U.S.-based institutional investor MC Credit Partners on a finance initiative to fund new film and TV projects. London-based Great Point has committed $80 million to the initiative, and MCCP will invest up to $100 million from the funds under its management. The first films and TV shows to [...]

  • John Boyega

    John Boyega Apologizes for 'Badly Worded' Comments He Made in Variety Interview

    John Boyega has apologized for comments made to Variety that some readers construed as an attack on his “Star Wars” co-star Kelly Marie Tran. Boyega took to Twitter on Thursday to clarify his remarks to Variety’s Adam B. Vary that social media was a tough environment “for those who are not mentally strong” and that [...]

  • Lee Joon-dong (left)

    Jeonju Festival Appoints 'Burning' Producer Lee Joon-dong as Director

    The Jeonju International Film Festival has appointed leading art-house producer Lee Joon-dong (“Burning”) as its director. The festival is usually regarded as the second most significant in South Korea, behind Busan. The appointment was announced on Wednesday by Kim Seung-su, chairman of the festival’s organizing committee. It follows several months of internal discord and the [...]

  • Warner Bros. Pictures trailer launch event

    Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jon M. Chu Tease 'In the Heights' Movie

    Lin-Manuel Miranda, director Jon M. Chu and star Anthony Ramos took the train to the top of the world to offer a sneak peek of “In the Heights,” Warner Bros.’ big-screen adaptation of Miranda’s (other) hit musical. “I’m thrilled we’re here, and I’m thrilled we’re uptown,” Miranda rhapsodized to a packed crowd at a cozy [...]

  • One for the Road

    Wong Kar-wai to Produce 'Bad Genius' Director’s 'One For The Road'

    Wong Kar-wai is producing “One For The Road,” a new film that reunites the director and star of 2017 Thai hit “Bad Genius.” Production in New York and Thailand will begin by the end of the year. The film is a buddy drama and a road movie that sees two old friends who have been [...]

  • Jesse Eisenberg

    Film News Roundup: Jesse Eisenberg to Star in Indie Thriller 'Wild Indian' (EXCLUSIVE)

    In today’s film news roundup, Jesse Eisenberg is starring and exec producing “Wild Indian”; Jason Bateman is directing “Shut In”; “Saturday Night Live” veteran Paula Pell is honored; and the Palm Springs Film Festival sets its opening and closing films. CASTING Jesse Eisenberg is starring in and executive producing the independent thriller “Wild Indian,” Variety [...]

  • disney d23

    Top 19 Media Trends of 2019: Disney's Box Office Dominance

    The domestic box office market share over the last 12 years provides a sobering reminder of how important franchises are to studio performance, especially for Disney. Although the 2019 box office looks to be falling short of the previous year’s total, Disney is ending the decade on the highest possible note, becoming the first studio ever [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content