As the 31st Durban International Film Festival wrapped up its 10-day run on Saturday, the organizers and festival-goers shared the same sentiments: This year’s edition was the most successful in the festival’s history.
The festival programmers deserve praise for their superb selection of over 200 films, which enticed patrons to fill up the theatres at DIFF screenings.
Festival Manager, Nashen Moodley, was highly enthusiastic. “Attendance at all the venues is up from last year, and we’ve also received increased feedback from attendees.”
Opening with the world premiere of Khalo Matabane’s “State Of Violence,” a powerful tale of revenge, history and memory; the festival closed with Josh Appignanesi’s hilarious comedy, “The Infidel,” about a British Muslim who discovers that he was born Jewish.
Moyo, an African-themed restaurant overlooking the Indian Ocean, was the venue for the awards dinner. Of the 75 feature films screened, 20 were in competition in the categories Best Feature Film, Best South African Feature Film, Best Documentary, Best South African Documentary, Best Short Film, Best South African Short Film, Audience Choice Best Wavescapes Film and Audience Choice Best Film.
The International Jury comprised producers Aihara Hiromi (Japan) and Christoph Thoke (Germany) and South African academic, writer and producer Bhekizizwe Peterson.
Mohammad Rasoulof’s “White Meadows” (Iran) won the Best Feature Film award. “The film is an enigmatic and poignant political allegory and takes the viewers through a journey on life’s fundamental questions and beliefs,” the jury said.
The Best Feature Film award carried a cash prize of R50,000 ($6,700). Cash prizes of R25,000 ($3,333) and R20,000 ($2,700) were also awarded to the winners of the Best South African Feature Film and Best First Feature Film respectively.
The Best South African Feature Film was awarded to “Life, Above All,” directed by Oliver Schmitz. Calling it “beautifully filmed and masterfully edited, with astounding performances”, the jury highlighted the film’s universal resonance. Thirteen-year-old Khomotso Manyaka, who played the role of Chanda in the film, was named Best Actress by the International Jury.
The Best First Feature Film was awarded to “Peepli Live” (India), directed by Anusha Rizvi and produced by Aamir Khan. The Jury noted: “‘Peepli Live’ is an ambitious and well-realized film that deals with serious political issues in a witty and entertaining manner.”
The jury awarded the Best Director award to Debra Granik for the Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner, “Winter’s Bone” (USA). “The director’s vision shows a remarkable attention to the details that make up all the aspects of production, resulting in an intensely atmospheric and sensitive film,” the Jury said.
The Documentary Film Jury awarded the Best Documentary award to “Waste Land” (UK/Brazil) by Lucy Walker, Joao Jardim and Karen Harley. The jury commented: “‘Waste Land’ is an insightful and compelling documentary that records Brazilian artist Vik Muniz’s journey to the world’s largest landfill located around Rio de Janeiro. Here, Muniz works with a select group of proud pickers who hail from the favelas. As they collaborate in creating stunning and memorable portraits from the garbage, Waste Land emerges as a poignant and redemptive story of marginalized people whose dignity and resilience inspires us.”
“Waste Land” received the Audience Choice Prize for Best Film by the DIFF audiences and was also given the Amnesty International Durban Human Rights Award granted to documentary films that best explore human rights issues. The award carried a cash prize of €2,500.
The Best South African Documentary was awarded to “The Cradock Four” by David Forbes. The jury praised Forbes for “crafting a remarkable and engaging documentary about The Cradock Four with great emotional depth. In the telling of this heart wrenching story, the filmmaker makes us aware of the importance of confronting a painful past and to uphold and advocate the dignity, respect and human rights of all people.”
The Short Film Jury awarded Best Short Film to “The Same Old Story” (Spain), directed by Jose Luis Montesino, while the Best South African Short Film was given to “In a Time Without Love” by Mark Strydom.
The Best Actor award went to Sebastian Hiortaf Ornäs for his role in “Sebbe” (Sweden).
Best Cinematography went to Odyssey Flores for Brillante Mendoza’s “Lola” (The Philippines).
The Best Screenplay prize was given to Efthymis Filippou and Giorgos Lanthimos for the Un Certain Regard winner, “Dogtooth” (Greece). This was “for creating a unique and bizarre universe with its own language and morals that questions and challenges the viewers own sense of their real world. The script sustains its radical vision and dark humor throughout, making it not easily accessible or likeable.”
Anusha Rizvi’s Best First Feature Film winner, “Peepli Live.”