Films out of Africa to vie for top honours at festival

Filed on November 18, 2010

DUBAI Seven feature, documentary and short films from across the African continent will screen at the seventh Dubai International Film Festival next month, Festival organisers announced yesterday.

Six of the films will vie for honours in DIFF’s Muhr AsiaAfrica competition; the last is part of DIFF’s African cinema showcase.

Three of the films are from South Africa, including police procedural drama A Small Town Called Descent, screening in the Festival’s out-of-competition Cinema of AsiaAfrica showcase; societal drama State of Violence; and Life, Above All, a moving and powerful story of a young girl who fights the gossip and fear that poison her community after the death of her newborn baby sister. The film, directed by South African filmmaker Oliver Schmitz, is the rainbow nation’s official entry to the 2011 Academy Awards and drew a standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival.

State of Violence, the debut fiction film from South African director Khalo Matabane, opened the 31st Durban International Film Festival this summer. The taut, hard-hitting suspense drama, Matabane’s follow-up to the award-winning documentary Conversations on a Sunday Afternoon, follows a South African corporate leader whose past as a violent revolutionary comes back to threaten him.

A Small Town Called Descent, meanwhile, follows three elite agents in their investigation of xenophobic attacks in a small town. The film, a darkly humorous and honest look at South Africa’s political dynamics, boasts an all-star cast including Vusi Kunene, Paul Buckby, Fana Mokoena and Hlubi Mboya.

Ghana, Cameroon, Kenya and Chad are also represented in DIFF’s Muhr AsiaAfrica competition. The Nine Muses from Ghana and Koundi and the National Thursday from Cameroon are part of the Muhr AsiaAfrica documentary competition; Kenya’s Pumzi competes in its short films section; and A Screaming Man from Chad is included in its features competition.

The Nine Muses, a beautifully shot, rich and moving film from British director John Akomfrah, focuses on the experiences of immigrants from Africa, Asia and the Caribbean into the United Kingdom while speaking to the larger story of migrants and migrations, memory, alienation and working life in a Britain.

Koundi and the National Thursday, a heartfelt look at life inside a small, communal society negotiating the demands of globalisation, tracks a group of villagers who decide to form a union to help them use timber wealth to alleviate poverty and ensure future autonomy.

A Screaming Man, the in-competition feature film from Chadian director Mahamet-Saleh Haroun, is a quietly powerful and heartbreaking tale of a father and son’s soured relationship in war-torn Chad. The father, a former swimming champion and now pool attendant at a luxury hotel resort, is demoted in favour of his son when new management takes over. The film won the jury prize at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival. Lastly, Pumzi, Kenya’s first science fiction film, is set in a future Kenya after water wars have torn the world apart and East African survivors live locked away in contained communities. Heralded as a standout at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, the film follows a young woman scientist who discovers a germinating seed and struggles to bring it to Earth’s ruined surface.

Nashen Moodley, DIFF’s Director AsiaAfrica, said the films in this year’s slate are reflective of the stories, people, languages and talent from across the continent.

“The crop of African cinema this year has been particularly rich, and we are confident that this year’s showcase will prove very popular with Dubai audiences,” he said. “These African films stand alongside the best of international cinema and will ensure a very diverse and close competition.”

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