5 films to catch at the Joburg Film Festival

2018-11-09 00:00

It’s time for the Joburg Film Festival again, not that anyone would know that thanks to a lack of advertising. With the schedule and venues announced only four days ahead of its opening, we wonder how many people will pitch up this year. Nevertheless, we tracked down the festival's curator, Mozambican film maker Pedro Pimenta, to ask him for his top picks, writes Grethe Kemp.

It promises 40 curated African and international releases to choose from. But, at the time of writing this (November 6), only the first three days of the Joburg Film Festival programme had been released and the website showed no movie synopsis or info about the film makers.

Ironically, in a press release we happened to get, festival curator Pedro Pimenta wrote: “It is very concerning to realise that a vibrant industry like the one in South Africa is suffering from a disconnection with its vast audience. The Joburg Film Festival, on its small scale, aims to address this imbalance as we believe the ultimate raison d’être of films is to reach and impact on audiences.” Right.

We asked him via email which of these films he’d recommend, and he replied: “My real picks are ALL the titles being programmed at the Joburg Film Festival. For each one of them, there is at least a good reason that justifies the choice of an offering that covers various approaches and styles aiming at developing different tastes to a diversified audience.”

We’re sure these films are great, and would still like to give the hard-working film makers their due. Here is the info we received:

Director: Soudade Kaadan (Syria)
It is winter in Damascus, Syria. Sana is living alone with her eight-year-old son; her husband is working in Saudi Arabia. There is no more gas to cook or to warm the house. Sana takes a day off to find a gas cylinder, and so begins a trip in the surroundings of Damascus, where she is going to be brutally confronted by the effects of the war.

The Hollywood Reporter writes: “A flawed but interesting fiction debut.”

Director: Joel Karekezi (Rwanda)
At the outbreak of the Second Congo War, Sergeant Xavier and young private Faustin are accidentally left behind in the jungle. With only each other to count on, they embark on an odyssey across the most violent forest on Earth, facing the depths of their own war-torn souls.

Cinema Scope writes: “A propulsive film that uses the visual and dramatic potential of hermetic environments to create a story that is both broad in scope and direct in vision.

Director: Rehad Desai (South Africa)
An unflinching look at the #FeesMustFall student movement that burst on to the South African political landscape in 2015 as a protest over the cost of education. The story is told by four student leaders at Wits University and their vice-chancellor, Adam Habib, himself a former anti-apartheid student activist. When Habib’s efforts to contain the protest fail, he brings 1 000 police officers on to campus. There are dire consequences for the young leaders. By blending unfolding action with a multiprotagonist narrative, much of the drama lies in the internal struggles the activists have around the weight of leadership.
Mail & Guardian writes: “Perhaps one of the more important aspects of ... Everything Must Fall is that it subscribes to chronology in telling the #FeesMustFall story. As a result, it is able to pull in and grip many neophytes to this important story.”

Director: Anna Eriksson (Finland)
A non-linear, experimental film that engages with sexuality and death through the guise of Marilyn Monroe to reflect on shifting gender power relations.

Cineuropa writes: “It’s Eriksson’s first project and, while that certainly shows at times, there is also something admirable about an inexperienced director going all in, instead of cautiously testing the waters first. While she certainly sticks to some of the star’s more recognisable traits ... she has no qualms about shattering them all to pieces.”

Director: Naziha Arebi (Libya)
In post-revolution Libya, a group of women are brought together by one dream: to play football for their country. Freedom Fields is a film about struggle and sacrifice. At the new dawn of a nation once cut off from the rest of the world, this is a story about following your dreams against all odds and at any cost. Through their eyes, we see the reality of a country in transition, where personal stories collide with history.

Scene Creek writes: “Beautifully shot and paced, director Arebi succeeds at telling an intimate, nuanced story while showcasing Libyan street life in the complicated post-Muammar Gaddafi era.”

  • The festival runs from November 9 to 17 at Maboneng Bioscope, Rosebank Cinema Nouveau, Ster-Kinekor Maponya Mall and the Kings Theatre in Alexandra. Go to

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