French Focus at the 45th Durban International Film Festival

Films featured at the Oscars and leading global film festivals such as Berlinale, Cannes, and Venice will be part of the French focus at the 45th Durban International Film Festival. The programme will include the documentaries, DahomeyCoconut Head Generation, and Four Daughters made by filmmakers who hail from Paris, Kinshasa, and Tunisia. The project is supported by the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs and the French Institute, with IFAS and Alliance française in Durban.

“France is dedicated to promoting Francophone cinema on the global stage as a means of cultural exchange, highlighting the power of storytelling to connect and spark meaningful conversations. The French Focus forms part of a larger project which includes a scouting delegation of French experts coming to Durban and Cape Town, as well as support for the incubation of filmmakers through the Jumpstart programme at Durban Film Mart” says David Martinon, Ambassador of France to South Africa, Lesotho and Malawi.

In her film Dahomey, French-Senegalese filmmaker, Mati Diop, delves into the history of the Kingdom of Dahomey, now Benin, as she documents the return of plundered artefacts to their place of origin. The film was an international co-production between France, Senegal, and Benin. This insightful and meditative portrait of the restoration of African treasures was shown in the main competition at the 74th Berlin International Film Festival, where it won the Golden Bear.

Alain Kassanda was born in Kinshasa but lived in Nigeria for four years, until 2019, when he created a movie club, Thursday Film Series at the University of Ibadan. This is the inspiration for Coconut Head Generation and presents cinema as not only a witness to but also part of change and liberation. The boundaries of film are further stretched in Four Daughters where film is family therapy and family therapy is film in this Oscar-nominated feature. Olfa Hamrouni’s two eldest daughters disappeared in 2015 leaving her and her two youngest daughters heartbroken and grief-stricken. In a bid to piece together their story, Ben Hania invites professional actors to play the roles of the missing sisters. As the intimate tableau of a family torn apart is recreated, Olfa and her two daughters negotiate their personal trauma and loss.

Disco Afrika: A Malagasy Story premiered at the Marrakech Film Festival and was screened at the 74th Berlinale where it received an honourable mention. The film follows Kwame a young miner who flees to his home village after a tragedy. The filmmaker captures the soul of Madagascar by focusing on its ancestral rites and connects the generations to honour the island’s enduring spirit of resistance. This personal coming-of-age tale is told in parallel to the growth of a democracy fuelled by oppression, corruption, and revolution. The Story of Souleymane, which was awarded the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize and the Un Certain Regard Performance Prize at the recent Cannes festival, follows Souleymane, an undocumented migrant from Guinea, as he rides through the streets of Paris delivering online orders. Described as a “glowing portrait of urban connection and unexpected sisterhood,” All We Imagine As Light is a glorious rendition of the beauty of Mumbai by night. The lives and loves of two nurses are thrown together by circumstance, and we follow their delicate journey of friendship through the bustling city streets. The decision to return to their mutual birthplace, Kerala, gives rise to some unexpected realisations, an imagination of light and a future that neither had dared to dream of.

Voices from another realm feature strongly in Lkhagvadulam Purev-Ochir’s City of Wind. It is the first Mongolian film to play at both Toronto and Venice Film Festivals. It tells the story of a 17-year-old boy, Ze (Tergel Bold-Erdene), who lives between two worlds. One where he is a diligent student, falling in love with a girl, the other, a shaman for his community.

The final film on offer is The Voice of Others directed by Fatima Kaci. It earned Kaci the top honour in 2023 where she received the Lights on Women Award. The topical film follows Rim, a Tunisian interpreter who assists migrants with asylum procedures in France. Each day as she translates the stories of exiled men and women she is forced to confront her own history.

“Through a distinctively French lens, all the films throw light on global realities of migration, restitution, and revolution. The deeply personal ramifications of the post-colonial dismantling of the past and the navigation of new relationships are just some of the themes explored in this extraordinarily diverse selection of films”, says Andrea Voges, the Programme Head and Manager of the Durban International Film Festival.

Follow us to keep updated