Features Face Hard Truths at DIFF 2024

A sense of place is a common feature in many of the films on offer at the 45th Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) this year.

“For lovers of life and observers of humanity, DIFF affords a window on the world, the complexities of relationships between people, and the consequences of the broken ties between nations”, Andrea Voges, the Head of Programmes and the DIFF Manager.

The re-release of the groundbreaking City of God celebrates the film’s 21st anniversary. This intimate portrayal of the favelas of the poverty-stricken Rio neighbourhood, Cidade de Deus, establishes Rio as character in the film and adds a gritty intensity to this classic. The Mongolian film City of Wind follows the life of a seventeen-year-old shaman as he juggles his spiritual responsibilities with his school work. The girl sat a school in the Himalayas wrestle with their growing sexual awareness in Girls Will Be Girls, which won the Audience Choice Award at Sundance. Other features from Sundance are Malu and How to Have Sex, the latter compassionately looks at sex, friendship, and consent in the painfully familiar portrait of young adulthood.

DIFF is proud to include five films from the 77th Cannes Film Festival, which took place in May 2024. All We Imagine as Lights a magical ode to nocturnal Mumbai with a distinctively feminist thread. It tells the bittersweet stories of three friends, women who have devoted their lives to others with little thoughts of their self-realisation. Santosh, another female-led narrative follows a young Hindu widow who inherits her husband’s job as a police constable. The portrait of power, and how it perverts those who wield it, shines light on the complexity of caste and religion in India.

The status of women in Iran is at the heart of The Seed of the Scared Fig, which takes place during the time of the anti-hijab protests. The toxic authority wielded by a lawyer over his wife and daughters culminates in a climactic ending. Dreams play a pivotal role in the first Somali feature ever selected for Cannes, The Village Next to Paradise as we follow the lives of three misfits who form a makeshift family. Their modest dreams of a small shop, a steady job, and schooling are dreamt against the backdrop of a volatile Somalian political landscape.

Souleymane an undocumented Guinean delivery biker and the star of the titular film, The Story of Souleymane has followed his dream to Paris. He balances his precarious employment and the complexities of preparing for his governmental interview to determine his status. In sharing his story, he could be sharing one of the many who have fled countries torn by conflict in search of a better life.

The return of her son from fighting with ISIS in Syria leads to uncomfortable truths in Who Do I Belong To and opens a conversation about families torn apart by war. Agnieska-Holland’s Green Border also follows the lives of a Syrian family as they attempt to cross the “greenborder” between Belarus and Poland with hundreds of other refugees. It is a grim reminder of the consequences of war and the moral choices that ordinary people face every day. The film, described as a “contemporary tragedy about the contraction of hope” by one critic, drew immense ire from the Polish government even before it was released but went on to win several awards, including Best Film at the Venice Film Festival.

“With the backdrop of warfare ever present, DIFF presents films that draw attention to the countless conflicts across the world. Often, it is in the intimate stories of individuals that the immense atrocity of war is understood, says Andrea Voges.

One of the South African films in the festival explores the consequences of Asian expansion in Africa in Mark Anthony Engels’s Masinga the Calling, in which a UK-based Interpol inspector attempts to repatriate a group of Ukrainian teenagers trafficked by a member of the Russian underworld. Kidnapping is also the theme of Sonti, after the brave act of rescuing an abducted woman leads to danger for the family of her heroic young rescuer. A touch of levity is provided by Sierra’s Gold when an eccentric young artist begins to excrete gold coins after consuming a concoction to terminate pregnancy. Her skills are sought by several nefarious individuals, and their attempts to ensnare her are comical and absurd.

Films from other parts of Africa include I Do Not Come to You by Chance by Ishaya Bako. This Nigerian film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and won Best Film at the 2023 African International Film Festival. Disco Afrika is a multinational collaboration that premiered at the 20th Marrakech International Film Festival in 2023 and received a special mention at the 2024 Berlin International Film Festival.

A Match, filmed in India with non-professional actors, explores arranged marriages in rural India. Dear Jassi tells the story of a couple who fall in love despite their class difference and mustfight against familial and societal prejudices. South Korea is represented by A Normal Family and Sleep and will satisfy the increasing market for cinema from the East Asian nation with these films, which show remarkable insights into seemingly ordinary families dealing with very unordinary issues.

Finally, the festival is proud to screen Fallen Leaves, the 20th full-length film by the acclaimed auteur Aki Kaurismäki, who won the Jury Prize at the 76th Cannes Film Festival in 2023. The tragicomic romance, a continuation of his Proletariat series, is set in modern-day Helsinki and follows a relationship that begins with a chance encounter at a karaoke bar.

A complete list of feature films follows:

A MATCH by Jayant Digambar Somalkar (India)

A NORMAL FAMILY by Hur Jin-ho (South Korea)

A STRANGE PATH by Guto Parente (Brazil)

AFTER THE LONG RAINS by Damien Hauser (Kenya)

ALL WE IMAGINE AS LIGHT by Payal Kapadia (France, India, Netherlands, Luxembourg)

CITY OF GOD by Fernando Meirelles, Kátia Lund (Brazil, France, Germany, USA)

CITY OF WIND by Lkhagvadulam Purev-Ochir (France, Mongolia, Portugal, Netherlands, Qatar, Germany)

DEAR JASSI by Tarsem Singh Dhandwar (India)

DISCO AFRIKA by Luck Razanajaona (France, Madagascar, Germany, Mauritius, Qatar, South Africa)

FALLEN LEAVES by Aki Kaurismäki (Finland, Germany)

GIRLS WILL BE GIRLS by Shuchi Talati (India, France, USA, Norway)

GREEN BORDER by Agnieszka Holland (Poland, Czech Republic, France, Belgium)

HOW TO HAVE SEX by Molly Manning Walker (United Kingdom)

I DO NOT COME TO YOU BY CHANCE by Ishaya Bako (Nigeria)

MALU by Pedro Freire (Brazil)

MASINGA THE CALLING by Mark Anthony Engels (South Africa)

MEMORY by Michel Franco (USA, Mexico)

MONTH END by Kagiso Samuel Leburu (South Africa)

MY FAVOURITE CAKE by Maryam Moghaddam, Behtash Sanaeeha (Iran, France, Sweden, Germany)

PROPERTY by Daniel Bandeira (Brazil)

SANTOSH by Sandhya Suri (India, France, UK, Germany)

SIERRA’S GOLD by Adze Ugah (South Africa)

SLEEP by Jason Yu (South Korea)

SONTI by Terrence Aphane

THE SEED OF THE SACRED FIG by Mohammad Rasoulof (Germany, France, Iran)

THE STORY OF SOULEYMANE by Boris Lojkine (France)


WHO DO I BELONG TO by Meryam Joobeur

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