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Durban cannes do

Film is my life... That sums up how I feel about the movies.
I don't care much for the big budget blockbuster American films and don't see many of them. I live for the small films with small budgets where you still see people and hear stories about people. They also have no car chases and big explosions which I don't see as art.
I discovered the Durban International Film Festival in 2005 by accident when I read on the Internet that they will be premiering Paradise Now and the two main actors and director will be present. I thought that would be incredible, but couldn't attend and had to wait for the South African art house release in January 2006.
I, however, made a point that I'll be in Durban in 2006... I live in the Northwest province of South Africa - 680 km by road to Durban!
The Durban Film Festival can be called the Cannes of South Africa with the fantastic warm weather in the Southern Hemisphere winter and a great variety of film. It's also wonderful to hear what the filmmakers had to say as many were in attendance.
I spent the weekend of 23-25 June in Durban and saw 12 films - that's four films a day.
My choice of films was as varied as the films on offer and luckily some of the festival winners were on my list. As with all film festivals it is impossible to see all the movies due to time constraints and visual overdose. However, what I've seen made a huge impact on me.
I saw the Sri Lankan film The Forsaken Land with very little dialogue. It's a war film but nothing like Platoon or any of the US war films. The photography is breathtaking and it subsequently won the award for photography.
Iron Island was a revelation to me. It's about a community of Iranians living on an abandoned oil tanker in the Persian Gulf and how they've managed to find land. It's mixed with stories of hardship, love and survival - just like basic human life.
Offside was the surprise film for me. It's also Iranian and tells the story of the Iranian women's love for football and how they cannot attend matches in their home country. Of course, they sneak in! It was nicely timed for the World Cup! Offside won for the best screenplay.
Say good morning to dad is a Bolivian film about Che Guevara and how he had an imapct on a small town where he was buried.
The New Zealand film, 50 ways of saying fabulous, is queer cinema at its best. The story is about a boy's coming of age in a country where rugby is a religion. It sounds just like South Africa!
A side, B side, Seaside was one of those small films that will never grace your local cineplex. It is also about sexual awakening, but this time in Hong Kong and it only concerns girls.
The Mongolian film, The Cave of a yellow dog, is a wonderful insight into nomadic family life. It doesn't star actors, but a real family.
Robert Altman's latest film, A Prairie Home Companion, had its SA premiere in Durban. I never knew Meryl Streep could sing and Woody Harrelson becomes a cowboy. That's filmmaking from a master.
Simon, from The Netherlands, is one of those films that tackles many issues - homosexuality, euthanasia and drugs. All these issues tell a story of how a man dying from cancer wants his gay best friend to adopt his children.
Al Gore's doccie titled An Inconvenient Truth hit its audience hard. I wonder who will not start recycling after seeing this film and George W Bush is suddenly not so popular anymore. It was sold out!
The cherry on the cake for me was United 93, also a South African premiere. With 9/11 still in everybody's minds this film blew me away. Those passengers were real heroes and I hate those hijackers even more. Before seeing the film I witnessed an elderly couple being robbed on the beachfront and wanted to go home. After seeing United 93 I knew why I drove so far to see film and it gave me inner peace.
PS I don't want to sound like an advertisement for Durban, but come to the 28 th Film Festival in 2007 and escape. I'll be doing it in 2007 and it will become a pilggrimage for me for years to come. It's also a lot closer than Cannes.

Danie Jacobs
Full-time Arts & Culture Reporter for Klerksdorp Record and freelancer


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