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Durban Film Festival


Love and pride

30 July: Day 6

The second last day of DIFF was my best day of all. I saw four films and they all have one thing in common - queer cinema - although the content is very different.
I don't know if these films were scheduled on the same day intentonally or by accident. I, however, was very surprised to see that the inaugural Durban Pride parade also took place on this day with the gay flag draped over City Hall.
I see myself as an afficionado of gay cinema and could not wait for the films to kick off.
Memories of March by Sanjoy Nag brought me to tears. The film shows what happens after a son dies in a car accident and his mother meets his gay lover. I spoke to the director afterwards where I told him that his film is so beautiful, realistic and unsensational.
I hope this film gets a wider audience as it can be a healing and learning experience. He also told me his film is cinema and not gay cinema as it is about gender and not sex. He also said grief transcends gender.
The director told me he did not plan to see the closing film and said the festival must be closing as they are screening a Woody Allen film! He inspired me to change my schedule and as Midnight in Paris wll be showing on the circuit soon, I headed to Musgrave for three films - Skoonheid (Beauty), Man at Bath (Homme au bain) and The Terrorists (poo kor karn rai). All three are queer films...
I am glad that I saw Oliver Hermanus' Skoonheid at the festival. I don't think its controversial content would work on the main circuit. The film is a piece of art and it's obvious why it won the Queer Palm. The film has a strong shocking story, stellar performances and it shows a very dark side of queer culture where married men meet other married men for sex and do not see themselves as gay!
The acting of Deon Lotz, the main character, deserves multiple awards. The rape scene will linger in my mind for a long time to come.
The only flaw in the film is that Hermanus lets the rapist gets away with his primal act and returns to his hometown as if nothing happened. I think that sends a wrong message.
Man at Bath doesn't beat around the bush -it's  erotic, graphic and in your face.
The film is a magic carpet ride into what happens when is couple is split up and their various delicious sexual encounters. The camera work is luminous as it is almost voyeur-like. These men are gay and live their lives without anything to hide.
The day closed with The Terrorists, one of the strangest doccies I've ever seen.
This film, banned in Thailand, combines sex and politics where erect penises are the only weapons against the Thai army during the recent uprisings. This fim won a Teddy at Berlin for its candid and brave content. I experienced mixed emotions when a hunk masturbated and the history of Thai uprisings were also on screen. It is also a strange coincidence that the Royal Thai embassy is involved with the Good Food and Wine Show  in Durban while this shown is at the festival!
As I was going back to my hotel, I was asking myself what's next in gay cinema. A couple of years ago no genitals were shown, then they were shown but flaccid.
Now the characters whip their erect cocks - not penises - out and come all over the screen and the only thing not shown is actual coitus.
Tomorow is the last day of the festival and I shall end it with three award winners, Sundance-winning doccie Position among the stars, Circumstance, also a Sundance winner, and Black Butterflies, a winner at Tribeca.
Black Butterflies is a Dutch film about the iconic South African poet Ingrid Jonker.
The award winners will also be known tomorrow.

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