This year marks the 36th annual Durban International Film Festival (DIFF), hosted by the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Centre for Creative Arts. Lasting ten days starting July 16th, the festival is one of the largest and longest running on the continent, featuring world class films from documentaries to shorts for a global audience.
36 years ago, at the first DIFF, only one South African film was shown. But this year, while films from around the world are screened, there are 14 feature, 13 documentaries, and 30 short films from South Africa being screened, most for the first time. DIFF is now known for being THE place to showcase South African film.
This year’s opening night film is the African premiere of Ayanda, the second fiction feature film from South African filmmaker Sara Blecher who opened the festival in 2011 with Otelo Burning. Ayanda tells the story of 21-year-old Afro-hipster Ayanda (Fulu Mugovhani) who has a talent for taking neglected pieces of furniture and bringing them back to life. Eight years after his death, her father’s prized auto repair garage is in financial trouble and in danger of being sold, but Ayanda does everything in her power to hold onto his legacy.
Pedro Pinmenta, the director of DIFF, believes the festival is a key moment during the year for filmmakers and film enthusiasts, alike, to bond over African film. “We have a vision to provide our audiences with films that are at once accessible and aesthetically pleasing, and to ensure that some of the films screened provide stimulation for the growth of the South African film industry, and these titles certainly speak to both of these notions.”
In 2013 the South African film and television industry contributed around 3.5 billion rand (around 283 million USD) to the country’s economy, accounting for nearly 10% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. Beyond being an incredible festival brimming with inspirational people, DIFF is actually boosting the economy and bringing global attention to the growing field of South African film!
Beyond just being a festival to highlight South Africa and global films, DIFF has helped facilitate cooperation across African borders, and to insure that African films, such as this year’s foreign-language film Oscar nominee “Timbuktu,” make an impact on the global stage.
This year, five films demonstrate this camaraderie perfectly, including “The Boda-Boda Thieves,” a collaboration between Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, and Germany which premiered in this year’s Berlinale Forum.
With only a few days left in this year’s festival we can’t wait to see which films make it big! Keep a look out for some of these during the Oscars in February because there is a lot of talent in this festivals line up.