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2015 UKZN 36th Durban International Film Festival Experience and Personal Reflection

Sep 01, 2015

By Kwazi Molefe

The 36th 2015 Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) kicked off on July 16 with a brilliant feature “Ayanda”, a 21 year old Afro-hipster, who embarks on a journey of self-discovery when she is thrown into a world of greasy overalls, and gender stereotypes. There is nothing much I can say about the opening night since there was no one who was invited from the interns to attend the opening ceremony. It would be of great importance to invite at least two interns for the opening and the closing nights in future.

The number of activities were lined up like screenings of feature films, documentaries, and special screenings events, films in competition, Brazilian, and Tunisian focus. The African lost classics, different themes from Burkina Faso to South Africa: a Celebration of the best of African Cinema, short films and industry related programs.

The African lost classics, different themes from Burkina Faso to South Africa, and legendary platform for African Film. This year’s festival features six winners from the 2015 edition of Pan-African Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou or FESPACO as it best known.  The festival, which launched in Burkina Faso in 1969.

The DIFF BEAT theme feature musical legends, street artist and activists, this is where DIFF pays tribute to free thinkers and rule breakers, who move us with their music and change the world. The last theme being JUST ONE EARTH which is part of an effort to promote sustainable living and help to raise an awareness about ecological threats we are facing.  A Celebration of the best of African Cinema, and Short Films, what is the value and role of short film? This is a question that often arises when discussing the criticized and lessened aspect of filmmaking.

The Special Screening Events, A Dry white Season by Euzhan Palcy born in Martinique, earned a film degree specializing in cinematography from Louis Lumiere College in Paris. She became the first black female director to have a film produced by a major Hollywood studio. And Tell Me Sweet Something by Akin Omotoso, who studied drama at the University of Cape Town where he won the Fleur du Cap for most promising student. He has directed on A Place Called Home (for which he won best director at the South African Film and Television awards), and the popular South Africa television drama Soul City.

The DIFF 2015 Awards night was held on 25July, at which the international Jury announced awards for different Features in the following categories.  Best feature Film, Best South African Feature Film, Best Director, Best Cinematographer, Best Screen Play, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Production Merit award.

Further awards were judged in the following categories:  Best Documentary, Best South African Documentary, Best South African Film, Best South African Film and Audience Choice Award. Additional Awards include the Amnesty International Durban Human Rights Awards for the film that best reflects human rights issues, and the Arterial Networks Art watch Africa Award, which was presented to an African film that meaningful engages with the issues of Freedom of Expression.

The messages of support from the Mayor of  EThekwini, James Nxumalo, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Humanities Cheryl Potgieter, University of KwaZulu-Natal. Carol Coetzee KwaZulu-Natal Film Commission CEO, and message from Zama Mkosi, National Film and Video Foundation CEO were published on 2015 DIFF Catalogue.

The students were given the opportunity to be part of the festival by attending the film screenings and industry related programs, and free tickets were issued for each screening. The team of students under the wing of UKZNs CCMS initiated by UKZN Professor Emeritus & Senior Research Associate were reporting on the DIFF activities. These stories were being published in different print and online media platforms. Such as City Press, the Witness, the Daily News Papers, and DIFF blog.   

This is a place where the Durban International Film Festival Internships of the selected talented students are given an opportunity to share in the festival experience. This is the countries longest and the oldest running film festival. This is the festival where the local people fail to embrace. Is it the locals who doesn’t know about the festival, or they are not informed about it?  The majority of student are not well-versed about the festival. Only few local people knows about this biggest and the oldest film festival. Why is it like this?

I desperately wanted to make a shot film which would be focusing on the other side of town or all five UKZN campuses. If I had means I would have interviewed the ordinary students and community members if they knew anything about what has been taking place around our beautiful city of EThekwini. Which is regarded as a city where the fun never stop and the sun never set. The South Africa’s playground.

The new DIFF Director Pedro Pimenta, who took over from Peter Machen, answering questions from Screen Africa said “A festival by its nature is an ongoing construction and is ever evolving so you take whatever was done before and then build on that.  In the 36 years of its existence there have many people involved with DIFF and each one has left a legacy of their own. I hope to build on this in a search for innovation as it is a living festival and aligned to the South African and African context. I plan to bring sensitivity to this context and also to take into account both the film industry’s needs and desires, and we need to provide for different audiences and their interests at the same time.”

The 16th of July 2015 is the day I most looked forward to come this year, since my former CCMS and UKZN Professor Emeritus & Senior Research Associate has handed over his task to me. I didn’t believed the email he sent me on 28 May 2015. I asked myself who am I, to wear such big shoes? I think this Prof, as we usually call him is not in his good senses to live such a huge task with an inexperience students. If the cap fit, why I wouldn’t wear it?

Who am I? I am a township boy, from Chesterville Township, which is few kilometers away from Howard College Campus, where I have been attending classes for the past six years. After I have been retrenched from my last formal employment in 2007, I decided to head back to school after 14 years of working experience, and self-employment. I registered to attempt my junior degree at the University of KwaZulu Natal (UKZN), School of Humanities in 2010. I majored in Community Development and Media Studies. I matriculated at Dr John Langalibalele Dube High School in KwaMashu, a Durban Northern Township.

When I was in high school, it was my dream of becoming a university graduate one day, less did I know how long it will take me to be one. I think it is in every child’s dream of becoming an important person in the society one day. This can easily makes me to think that in every adult there is a child.  Who am I? Yes I am a graduate, and I am not just a graduate, but a post graduate from Centre for Communication, Media and Society (CCMS) Department of UKZN.

Who am I? Yes I am a master’s student at the CCMS department in UKZN Howard College Campus. I have been given a responsibility to head the CCMS media lab (Centre for Communication, Media and Society) in which UKZN students received training in writing and editing for news media.

The Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) collaborative reporting project was initiated by Prof. Keyan Tomaselli from CCMS. The media lab is in its third year following last two year’s success in equipping students to deal with a real-world, on-the-go journalism industry. For The first time in its history, the media lab is handled by the students only this year. It former Captain Prof. Keyan Tomaselli decided to hand over the ship to his student’s officers and sailors. I admire his courage, and trust to his fellow students.

The email was circulated through Universities emails to invite those students who were interested in taking part in the CCMS media lab. Fewer students responded to the call, the invites are sent to students who are doing their second, third years and postgraduates. I then personally approached CCMS students informing them about this great initiative of being part of this oldest International Film Festival event. A team of sub editors and field reporters was formed, by the most dedicated students I ever met in my entire life.

What I did not appreciate especially from the student’s point of view are those students who we have been selected to be part of the project, and after all the arrangements has been finalized, media accreditation has been printed then they decide that they are not going to be part of the project. This becomes a set back as it exposes us to be short of the already planned news room workforce. It will be advisable for the future students who want to be part of the student’s media lab to really commit themselves in taking part. This becomes a problem because it closes the opportunities for other students who really wanted to be part of this great initiative, and were not selected because of the limitation of number that is required.

The CCMS students during the training workshop at the Centre for Creative Arts. Photo by Kwazi Molefe


The CCMS interns were trained in different media fields such as Public Relations, Journalism, Film Reviews, Communication Management, Events Management, and Organizational Communication. This is the great opportunity for us as students where we gain practical real media world experience. By being exposed to real corporate media environment with similar deadlines to news room by reporting and writing reviews on the festival activities.

The CCMS students during the training workshop at the Centre for Creative Arts. Photo by Kwazi Molefe

On the 17th of July 2015 at the Elangeni Hotel I met up with an old friend, a protest literature writer, a founding member of the legendary Raven Press, a contributor to the frequently banned Staff Rider Magazine. Mtutuzeli Matshoba was born in Soweto in 1950 and six years later began school as one the first of the Bantu education generation at a Salvation Army school in Orlando East. He attended secondary school in Lovedale in the Eastern Cape and in Vryheid in the then Natal, before being kicked out of Fort Hare University in 1976 for what he admits as general insubordination.

In 1978, Raven Press published his collection of short stories Call Me Not A Man. This landmark and strident collection concerned the urban black and migrant worker experience after the 1976 uprisings. Matshoba also appeared in anthologies like Forced Landing and To Kill A Man's Pride and in 1980 won the English Academy Pringle Award in the Creative Writing category.

I had a chance to spend the next four days with this such an interesting personality from Thursday 17 July to Sunday 19 July 2015. We drove to the Albert Luthuli Museum, where he has been running several film projects activities. He told me that he has been invited to the launch of the video of the local young and vibrant youth rap group called “UHURU”. The video is locally produced by the local youth.

Matshoba has been involved in the creation and writing of famous television productions such as Soweto, The History, Yizo Yizo, Stokvel, Scoop Scoombie, and Zero Tolerance. He graduated to feature film with the much acclaimed comedy Chikin Biznis, which won Best Screenplay in FESPACO in Burkina Faso in 1999. He has also been involved in polishing the scripts for Red Dust and, Jerusalema.

Teaching screenplay writing through “Script to Screen in Indigenous Languages”. With a smile he comments: “I have been granted an accreditation by Seta” He is currently working on a project that I will not reveal but it’s involves one of the greatest historical legends of South Africa during the period of anti-apartheid resistance.

When we arrived at the Albert Luthuli museum as it was my first time getting in. Surprisingly the previous Sunday the 12th of July 2015, I visited the museum but I arrived late as it was already closed. The local youth’s different artists shared the stage in show casing their musical materials. There were different activities, from the hip hop, to poets, and singers.    



Kwazi Molefe inside the Chief Albert Luthuli Museum.

There was a great talent show casing by the different local talented youths, this can be realized as the legacy of the great state man Chief Albert Luthuli. These youths has their own branded t-shirts and they were disciplining each other if there are people who are making noise during the performances.  I can say that there is a great talent in the area. After the event the youths were all over Mr. Mtutuzeli Matshoba giving him scripts that has been written by them, others were handing over their DVDs to this great writer and film maker.

Mr. Matshoba has been excited that he has been granted accreditation by SETA for his hard work in scripts to screen which has been supported by Gauteng Film Commission, SABC, ETV and Multichoice.  Mr Matshoba has been involved with the workshops in Gauteng and KZN Provinces.

Mtutuzeli Matshoba with the UHURU Hip Hop artists after the Launch of their debut video outside Chief Albert Luthuli Museum. Photo by Kwazi Molefe

Mtutuzeli Matshoba chatting to the UHURU Hip Hop artists after the Launch of their debut video outside Chief Albert Luthuli Museum. Photo by Kwazi Molefe

Mtutuzeli Matshoba with the UHURU Hip Hop artists after the Launch of their debut video outside Chief Albert Luthuli Museum. Photo by Kwazi Molefe

Kwazi Molefe outside Chief Albert Luthuli Museum in Groutville. Photo by Thamsanqa Dube.

Local youth Hip-Hop group performing at the UHURU video launch at Chief Albert Luthuli Museum

 My first screening I attended was the “Shore Break” documentary film shot at the Eastern Cape Pondoland of the Amadiba area at the Port St Jones. The film is about a family dispute between two cousins, one is in support of the proposed mining project on the tribal land, while the other is against. For centuries, the Pondo people have lived their lives in a tribal and traditional way.

This documentary film is shot at the Eastern Cape Pondoland of the Amadiba area at the Port St Jones. I regard this area as one of the most beautiful coastlands of South Africa.

The film is about a family dispute between two cousins, one is in support of the proposed mining project on the tribal land, while the other is against. For centuries, the Pondo people have lived their lives in a tribal and traditional way.

Nonhle is a young local eco-tour guide who is against the proposed mining in the area.  She feels that the local environment and their traditional livelihood and culture will be threatened. Madiba is a local entrepreneur and Nonhle’s cousin. He is a supporter of the mining project, and he believes that this project will help the impoverished people of the Pondoland.  The area is full of titanium and the Australian company is interested in mining the area.  

Madiba believes that by modernizing the area, this will bring a better life for the Pondo people. The schools, hospitals and the employment opportunities will be generated from the mining project. Controversially, the government plans to build a road that crosses the tribal land. 

What is interesting aspect of the film is the appointment of the new Pondo King Zanozuko Sigcawu by the State President and ousting of the pro–environmental Pondo Royal King Mpondombini Sigcawu. This battle takes place in the courts, right up to the constitutional courts, where the pro- environmental Pondo Royal House came out victorious.

The Shore Break provides great cinematography, best animations and original music of Ntombe Thongo. The director of the documentary is Ryle Grunewald a 2012 Berlinale Talents alumnus and hold a Masters in Film and Television.  The Dawn of the New Day, her directorial and production debut, won Best Director, and Best Cinematography of a Documentary at the 2012 South African Film and Television Awards.

During the premier of the documentary screening for DIFF 2015 the Pondo Royal Family from Eqhawukeni and film director attended the screening. The Queen Sigcawu of the Pondoland and her Princess daughter were both present. After the film the praise singer started praising the Princess whilst she was walking in front of the auditorium with the film maker, she delivered her shot speech and left it to the filmmaker.

What strike me most about the audience is that only few African decedents were available, the majority of the audience was white. It was full house other people were sitting on the steps. The turn up was good, but I got worried when I didn’t see much of the black people from the audience. This is a must see documentary film as its tackles the environmental, social and traditional livelihood.

 My second screening I attended was the “SEMBENE - The African Premier” documentary film by Samba Gadjigo and Jason Silverman.

Sembene is regarded as the "father of African film", as a child he wanted to be a Frenchman. He is a Senegalese born film director, producer and writer. He is the son of a fisherman, who was exposed to Serer religion and the Tuur festival in his childhood, this soon changed his ideas of wanting to become a Frenchman. He became proud of being an African and wanted to tell more stories about being an African.

A fifth grade dropped out started to dream an impossible dream of becoming a storyteller for a new Africa. This feature length documentary tells a true story of a self-taught novelist and filmmaker who fought against all odds, an enormous of the fifty yearlong encounter of telling an African stories to Africans.

This fascinating documentary tells of Sembene's humble beginnings as a dockworker at Marseille in France, and through the involvements of the man who knew him best as his colleague and biographer Samba Gadjigo. This director a graduate from the University of Dakar and received his PhD from University of Illinois Urbana Champaign. He has written and edited several books and he frequently underwrites articles about French and francophone African literature and film. The other director is Jim Silverman is a producer and actor, known for Shameless (1996), Olympia and Escape Act (2012).

Sembene devoted himself to the cause of film and storytelling with his whole strength and soul which was true to the African audience and he became a master at doing it. He believed that films could reach wider African audiences. His work has been noticed and has been singled out as best and attracted the attention of the powerful people in Africa and the world over. He has come a long way from his modest beginnings.

The themes of Sembène's films covered the history of colonialism, the failings of religion, and the critique of the new African bourgeoisie, African culture, and the strength of African women. Samba Gadjigo returns to Sembène's house four years after Sembène’s death. Gadjigo used exclusive archival footage, to tell the story of a man who has transformed himself into a fearless, freedom fighter, who used stories as his weapons. He is also regarded as a spokesperson for the marginalised and becoming a hero to millions.

In one of his films, which was against the woman circumcision he uses a six year old who was already circumcised. The girl was crying as loud as she thought of the pain she was going to experience once again. The crew was expecting Sembene to say cut, but he didn’t, as he explained himself that the crying of this girl would help to stop thousands of the other crying girls across Africa.

I regard Sembene as an intellectual, educator, leader, and a philosopher as I can have more words to describe this hero who is best known as the "father of African film". This is the powerful story that needs to be told in all four corners of the African continent, and the world over. I would also advice all the African film makers to watch this film as it is important for them to understand how to produce the African content for African audience.

This is a must see African mesmerizing documentary that comprising of the stories of African people, and is told the African way, and is also generated for African audiences.

The third screening I attended was the “When Voices Meet” a local documentary film which was also shot in United State in 1993, is directed by Nancy Sutton Smith.

When Voices Meet: You will need to have a heart, an eye, and an ear in order to Love, to see, and to listen to when Voices Meet. This is a warm and heart melting musical local collaboration of a massive local choir.  This is born in South Africa on opposite sides of Apartheid’s barriers.

When Voices Meet tells the story of the peace train which travelled throughout the country how in 1992, the three women met in Durban, South Africa. Risking their lives and careers, they formed an inseparable bond that continues to this day. It became clear that when voices meet, all things are possible.

Sharon Katz who left the privileges of white life to be begin sneaking past police barriers at the age of 15, and Nonhlanhla Wanda an educator, who travelled four hours a day on three pieces of transportation to teach in a rural KwaZulu-Natal school, without windows and electricity became in-separable partners determined to free the country with their voices instead of the AK- 47’s.  Born on opposite sides of South African Apartheid racial lines. Marilyn Cohen grew up during the civil rights movement in the US crossed the ocean to help on this massive and tremendous project.

The harsh realities of life under Apartheid regime bonded with the depths of Ubuntu’s (Humanity) extraordinary humanity created a revolutionary musical environment that never existed in countries history. A young group of ordinary school children broke all the existed apartheid barriers through the concept of music therapy.

The combination of three most powerful musketeers created life long lasting unity between all the people who were involved, the parents, the teachers, learners, professional musicians, sponsors, supporters, right up to the head of states. This is an unbelievable real story that touches your heart, your mind and your soul, and it so ever kind into your ears that it want to live your tears dropping from your eyes down to your chin.

From the humble beginning to the top of the world.  It is a story, which you want to watch and listen over and over again. The involvement of a multiple Grammy award winning Ladysmith Black Mambhazo, which mesmerized this heart warm musical piece.

The involvement of all races young innocent school children in this peace train follows on the country’s history when it left Durban and then it first performed in Pietermaritzburg train station which was made famous by Mahatma Ghandi who was thrown out on this station when he protested the first class train at the time when first class was reserved for whites only South African citizens.

When voices meet the house just explode and the world started to listen to these unknown young stars who are just driven by the passion of music, peace, love and happiness. The voices are as cool as a summer breeze, as warm as the fire glows and as soft as a babies touch just marinade your feelings and bring the hope back alive through the difficult times of the country, when the then known black on black violence was at its peak.

 The people who wouldn’t want peace and order in the society, could not withstand the power of these young voices who were in directly fighting this war through musical therapy. The country started to listen to these voices. These voices were directed by the values of peace, humanity, of bringing back the long lost hope amongst the nation which was at war with itself. Freedom was the main drive where children and adults were involved in this drive of bringing peace.

Music was used in healing the wounds of Apartheid these were the plans which were born from Sharon’s Idea.  Six weeks later this great idea was joined by Marilyn who came of age of protest music, the women’s movement. While working for social justice causes in America, who had a haunting recording by Miriam Makeba she found herself meeting two most powerful and dedicated women in South Africa.

The multiracial stage performers created an audience that every person can identify with. This is when all the Apartheid barriers are broken into pieces by the sweet melodic innocent voices.  When they meet they serenate your mind body and soul, and automatically the peace can be felt in everyone’s heart.

This is the local story that needs to be supported and be told to every corner of the country and such initiatives can be continued to be developed because they help in building confidents in young kids to believe in themselves. This gives opportunities to the young ones to experience their child hoods as natural as they can.  

I would like to thank my humble and inspiring Professor Emeritus & Senior Research Associate for entrusting me to initiate and organize the 2015 DIFF Student Media Lab Centre. This is the huge international event that exposes the media student with great exposure in the fields of Journalism / Film Reviews, Communication Management, Events Management and Organizational Communication.

This was a great opportunity for us as students to be exposed in the real corporate media environment with similar deadlines to a newsroom and to write film reviews and to report on the Durban film festival activities. This is the opportunity that I will always cherish for the rest of my life because it laid a solid foundation on my media career. When a solid foundation is laid a strong house can be built.


CCMS 2015 DIFF Interns Team at Elangeni Hotel Final Debriefing: Picture by Sipho Ngwenya.

Inside the Chief Luthuli House Museum in Groutville. Picture by Kwazi Molefe



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