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Ripples of Reality: A Personal reflection on DIFF

BY DANICA HANSEN

The DIFF 2015 closing night ceremony opened with Pedro Pimenta’s expression of gratitude for his first edition as director of the Durban International Film Festival. “Everything we do is for the audience,”said Pimenta.

The evening proceeded with the juries of the various awards announcing the winners. The Shore Break (which also won the Audience Choice Award)was announced the winner of the Amnesty International Durban Human Rights Award. Founder of the Durban FilmMart Steering Committee, Peter Rorvik announced Beats of the Antonov as the winner of the Arterial Networks/Artwatch Africa Award.“I will make sure this award gets back to the Nubba Mountains,” said Beats of the Antonovdirector Hajooj Kuka, as he accepted the award for Best Documentary.

With an array of good filmsandrich programming on offer, you could almost be forgiven for forgetting that beyond the cinematicworlds created by the multiple directors… beyond eLangeni Hotel’s corridors, buzzing with voices and accents from across the globe… beyond the festivities… lies the City of Durban. For 10 days the ‘real world’ becomes theblurred background upon which this impressive celebration of cinematic artistry unfolds. I was reminded of this reality one afternoon. It was a Sunday, I was late.I was counting milliseconds in a mad rush to make it on time for yet another film, when I caught sight of a beautiful bride.

I was rendered still by the bride’s radiances, but even in my momentary motionless I was rushing. It was an instant that felt like a lifetime. Clad in white, she spun around at the sound of bells the lovely bride; the new wife. Across the road, a street kid smiled as he waved. I saw an old man sitting on the edge, making apavement special. But no one else would see him.White hair, white beard, white skin toned by the sun. And there it was the whole image in black and white. This reality was almost homage to the greyscale fictional reality created by Sibs Shongewe-La Mer – in his award winning featurefilm Necktie Youth –a film thatconfronts the audience with the bitter truth of a world divided.

It stirs upan understandingnot easily expressed. All these lives coexist in one world that isrotting and growing, renewing and slowing. But if we have one world, why is it segmented? This is the phenomenon I cannotcomprehend.Those who want money and those who want life.Those who want to protect, and those who want to destroy. In The Shore Break and Virunga it is the environmentalists against the entrepreneurs. The people and the leaders and all the Democratsthat are undemocratic. The activists put in the attic in The Yes Men are Revolting. The herd boys that are unheard in the Coming of Age. All these documentaries, each one a capsule, a common thread of the people who are greedy and the people who are needy.

I had all of this inside of me when I went to the closing ceremony after party. All these thoughts now stirring, and swirling, and brewing in my mind like a broth.I could not find appropriate expressions, could not mould my thoughts into the right words. I wanted to see the good in it all and be happy, but my heart gripped firmly to sorrow –like a mother holding fast to her baby in a flood.I think that iswhy people will die for music (They Will have to Kill us First) or make music in spite of death (Beats of the Antonov). That is why beautiful women tell stories and pluck up courage and wage their small wars and their silent fights (The Dream of Shahrazad).That is why I find myself weeping at the death of Rosie Larsen (The Killing), because I realized suddenly that the critically acclaimed television series CSI dehumanizes death.

Maybe I am the thread from Nasser’s pyramidthat could not tie it all forever.I write my reviews of these films because that is what I do. Each of these filmshave captured life in all its fullness, and it is brutal to watch. Yet each of these films have showed me life and it is impossible to manage.I have been rushing here, rushing there, cramming in documentary after documentary. Watching them all,I have seen different worlds and I cannot fit them together. Even my long drive in the rain was a shade of grey that could break my heart with beauty. How resilient beauty is in the midst of suffering. So, I commend you, you documentarians. To the films I saw and the ones I have yet to see. You must have felt the way I did; you must have felt something that stirred up a thirst to create these films; to capture this life to display beauty... Even in spite of strife.

 

The 36th Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) is organised by the Centre for Creative Arts at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (a special project of the Deputy Vice Chancellor of Humanities, Cheryl Potgieter) with support from the National Film and Video Foundation,, KwaZulu-Natal Film Commission, City of Durban, German Embassy, Goethe Institut, Industrial Development Corporation, Gauteng Film Commission, KwaZulu-Natal Department of Arts and Culture and a range of other valued partners.

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