You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Journeymen’ Opens Durban Festival on Positive, and Crowdpleasing, Note

The 37th Durban Intl. Film Festival (DIFF) kicked off June 16 with a youthful and energetic doc that was warmly received on what’s celebrated across the country as Youth Day.

As South Africa commemorated the 40th anniversary of the Soweto Uprising, a series of student protests that were an emotional high-water mark of the anti-apartheid struggle, the festival opened with “The Journeymen,” a crowdpleaser by newcomer Sean Metelerkamp, who hit the road for seven months along with fellow photographers Wikus de Wet and Sipho Mpongo to shoot the documentary.

Filmed on three chest-mounted GoPros that chronicled their epic, 15,000-mile road trip across the country in 2014, “The Journeymen” offered a candid snapshot of a nation at a crossroads, with South Africans from a diverse range of backgrounds looking back on two decades of post-apartheid democratic rule.

Introducing the movie, acting festival director Peter Machen said, “It shows us how far we’ve come, and how far we have to go in fulfilling Nelson Mandela’s dream of…an equitable society.”

Machen struck a reflective chord early on, starting his speech by thanking all the “brave souls” whose work over nearly four decades have helped in “bringing this mighty DIFF train into the station.” It was a reminder that South Africa’s oldest film festival has faced its own struggles this year — an old but powerful locomotive solemnly chugging uphill.

For the organizers, the opening-night pageantry offered a chance to get beyond the embarrassing headlines of recent weeks, when a row involving the University of KwaZulu-Natal, whose Center for Creative Arts manages the festival, South African super-producer Anant Singh, whose “Shepherds and Butchers” was slated to bow this year’s proceedings, and fest manager Sarah Dawson put the fest in jeopardy.

When manager Dawson abruptly resigned last month, citing differences with DIFF management over the selection process that tapped “Shepherds” for the opening night, Machen stepped in to seize the reins of a festival whose credibility was at stake.

Addressing a controversy that spilled over into the headlines, Machen noted last night, “We need to have dialogue, not shouting matches.” Echoing the mood, newly appointed director of the Center for Creative Arts, David Maahlamela, channeled his inner Dickens, adding, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

Yet for a festival born under the dark cloud of apartheid, when it offered a platform for controversial movies that were frequently banned by the government, DIFF continues to offer a bold voice for works from around the continent. This year’s edition will again have a strong local flavor, with nearly half of the 100 feature-length films screening in 15 venues across the city showcasing the works of African helmers.

For South Africa, the fest will include 10 fiction features and 14 docs. Among the highlights will be director John Barker’s political mockumentary “Wonder Boy for President,” starring South African comic Kagiso Lediga, which will have its world premiere June 17; and “Tess,” a hard-hitting drama about a 20-year-old prostitute in Cape Town whose life is torn apart by drug addiction and sexual violence. The fiction feature debut for Meg Rickards, whose doc “1994: The Bloody Miracle,” won an audience award in Durban in 2014, it has its world premiere June 18.

Alongside the screenings will be a wide-ranging industry program that showcases DIFF’s important role in bolstering filmmaking around the continent. In addition to a series of workshops and panel discussions, the seventh annual Durban FilmMart will offer 19 projects from across Africa a chance to meet with potential financiers, co-producers and distributors. And the ninth edition of Talents Durban, in cooperation with Berlinale Talents, brings together 20 African filmmakers for a series of workshops, master classes, and networking opportunities with industry professionals.

The 37th Durban Intl. Film Festival runs though June 26.

More Film

  • Bill Hader Barry

    WGA Awards 2019: Announcing Winners Live

    The 71st annual Writers Guild Awards are underway at dual ceremonies at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif. and at the Edison Ballroom in New York City. Chelsea Peretti hosted the West Coast ceremonies while Roy Wood Jr. was the emcee in New York Original screenplay nominees are Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma”; Adam McKay’s [...]

  • Alita Battle Angel

    Box Office: 'Alita: Battle Angel' No Match for China's 'Wandering Earth' Overseas

    Hollywood movies like “Alita: Battle Angel” and “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” are doing respectable business overseas, but they’re proving no match for foreign titles at the international box office. The Chinese New Year is bringing in huge business in the Middle Kingdom. China’s sci-fi epic “The Wandering Earth” pulled in a [...]

  • ABA_062_DAU_0060_v0409.87501 – Rosa Salazar stars as

    Box Office: 'Alita: Battle Angel' Wins Dismal President's Day Weekend

    Fox’s sci-fi adventure “Alita: Battle Angel” dominated in North America, but its opening weekend win isn’t leaving the box office with much to celebrate. Tracking services estimate that this will be one of the lowest grossing President’s Day weekends in years. Ticket sales are on pace to be the smallest bounty for the holiday frame [...]

  • Bohemian Rhapsody

    'Bohemian Rhapsody,' 'Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' Among Cinema Audio Society Winners

    Queen biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” won the Cinema Audio Society’s top prize for sound mixing at Saturday night’s 55th annual CAS Awards. The film is Oscar-nominated for sound mixing this year along with “Black Panther,” “First Man,” “Roma” and “A Star Is Born.” In a surprise over heavy-hitters “Incredibles 2” and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” Wes [...]

  • Oscars Placeholder

    Make-Up and Hair Stylist Guild Applauds Academy's Stance on Airing Every Oscar Winner

    Rowdy boos were followed by triumphant cheers at the Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild Awards on Saturday in Los Angeles, as the Hollywood union touched on a week of controversy over a reversed decision to hand out four Oscars during the show’s commercial breaks. Hair and makeup was one of the four categories that would [...]

  • Marvelous Mrs Maisel Vice

    'Vice,' 'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' Lead Make-Up and Hair Stylists Guild Awards Winners

    Adam McKay’s Dick Cheney biopic “Vice,” starring Oscar nominees Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Sam Rockwell, won two awards at the sixth annual Make-Up and Hair Stylists Guild Awards Saturday night. The film won for best period and/or character makeup as well as special makeup effects. “Mary Queen of Scots” received the prize for period [...]

  • Bette Midler

    Bette Midler to Perform on the Oscars (EXCLUSIVE)

    Bette Midler will perform “The Place Where Lost Things Go” at the Oscar ceremonies on Feb. 24, Variety has learned. Midler, a longtime friend of composer-lyricist Marc Shaiman, will sing the song originally performed by Emily Blunt in “Mary Poppins Returns.” The song, by Shaiman and his lyricist partner Scott Wittman, is one of five [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content