Durban film feast begins!

Nosipho Mngoma of the 2013 Talent Press Durban reports from the scandal-ridden opening night of the 34th Durban International Film Festival and gives a outlook of the coming programm.

Jahmil XT Qubeka, the director of OF GOOD REPORT which was meant to open the DIFF yesterday, stands muzzled in front of a screen with the FSB notice that his film cannot be screened.

South Africa’s longest running film festival, the Durban International Film Festival (DIFF), is back to serve up the 34th helping this year. The hosts, University of KwaZulu Natal’s Centre for Creative Arts has laid out 300 screenings of films from around the world. Within this mouth watering mix is the pungent aroma of local flavour, with 12 South African feature films, 16 documentaries and a generous helping of provocative short films. Most anticipated was the opening night film, OF GOOD REPORT. Unfortunately it was not shown because the SA Film and Publications Board (FPB) refused its classification as it allegedly contains a scene which constitutes child pornography. Last night would have been its world premiere.

Director Jahmil XT Qubeka described it as a homage to film noir. It is about a small-time high-school teacher with a penchant for young girls. According to the programme notes, "it expands the language of African cinema," but we may never know. After the announcement was made to a cinema packed with over 700 people, Qubeka taped his mouth shut and tore up what seemed like his identity document in protest. Cast members were in tears.

Manager for the festival Peter Machen said an alternative was not shown out of respect for the director, Qubeka. "We chose the film because it was challenging, powerful and artistically successful, and particularly because it was such a strong expression of an individual voice," said Machen. "It presents a story of a very real and troubling social problem of rampant abuse of position in our country."

South Africa has a rich history, and this will be shared with film fundis in a trip to Inanda township, where Mahatma Gandhi lived during his time in the country. At the school where Nelson Mandela cast his first vote, the African Metropolis Short Film Project will give guests a taste of this continent's pressing realities through seven films from seven cities around the continent. The rest of the film buffet extends to the entire continent with its distinct African Focus.

Also making its debut is Kenyan offering IT'S US. The film stars Joseph Wairim who won last year’s DIFF Best Actor award for his portrayal of Mwas in director Tosh Gitonga's NAIROBI HALF LIFE. The film will be screened at the in the KwaMashu township. Screening the film outside the festival's main stream means that this story will reach ordinary people who otherwise would not have been exposed to it.

Through the medium of film their minds are opened to contentious issues they may either relate to or were oblivious to. DIFF provides a generous helping of films that cross borders, provide something for every taste and is bound to stir up debate.