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.
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."
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.
Durban Showcases African Film Renewal
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