Durban International Film Festival Announces Festival Programme for 40th Edition

The Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) presented by the Centre for Creative 9Universoty of KwaZulu-Natal) has launched its programme for it 40th edition which takes place from 18 to 28 July 2019 at various venues around Durban, South Africa.


The DIFF, together the 10th Durban FilmMart (DFM), the industry development programme in partnership with the eThekwini Municipality’s Durban Film Office, bring a combined 50 years of film to film-lovers and its hard-working creative industry.


The festival opens this year acclaimed South African director Jahmil X. T. Qubeka’s, Knuckle City a riveting exploration of the psychology of a fighter from the Mdantsane township of South Africa,directed by Jahmil X. T. Qubeka and produced and edited by award-winning Layla Swart of Yellowbone Entertainment, together with Mzansi Magic.


“We are very excited to be opening our 40th edition with this gritty raw film by Jahmil” says Chipo Zhou, Festival Manager. “This is a film which we believe will do very well as a cinema release, with boxing as the means to tell a the story, but its multi-layered narrative will resonate much deeper with audiences than what it appears at first. ”


In Qubeka’s words “It is my intention to capture the essence of life in Mdantsane and the restless pursuit of being a champion within a society that often dictates you are a failure. I am determined with this film to give audiences a glimpse into a world rarely seen, and a deeper understanding of the multi-faceted individuals inhabiting our land.”


A riveting and diverse DIFF programme this year includes 150 films from around the globe, comprising 74 feature films, 25 documentaries and 90 shorts; a community outreach programme, the Wavescapes Surf Film festival with 19 films focussed on surfing and water culture, the Isiphethu Hub a free industry programme for entry-level and emerging filmmakers, and the DFM for intermediate and professional filmmakers which includes the Talents Durban in partnership with the Berlin International Film Festival, a one-day Durban Does Docs documentary conference, a freeCreative Corner which offers insights into costumes, make-up and set design, a finance forum for pre-selected film projects to pitch to potential investors and the like, and a full programme of master classes, workshops and seminars.


“The range of films this year reflect a changing, fast-paced world, where issues of identity and belonging, land and immigration, love and pain – find a way to surface and hold a mirror to the world, to either gaze at, engage with or react to,” says Zhou.


Feature films that are in competition this year include a meta-cinema work by director South African directed Roger Young, Love Runs Out, Angus Gibson’s Back of the Moon (South Africa) set in Sophiatown in 1958, Cronofobia (Switzerland) directed by Francesco Rizzi a psychological drama about suspended identity; a Brazilian drama Divine Love (Divino Amor) directed by Gabriel Mascaro tells the story registry office clerk who uses her position at the births, deaths and marriages department to try to dissuade couples from getting a divorce. Riccardo Salvetti’s Rwanda, (Italy) offers a new take on the Rwandan genocide, through the first person experience, using live dramatic performance, intertwined with filmic reality; Tchaiko Omawale’s Solace (USA) is a moving and artful portrait of a smart, driven, and self- destructive teenage orphan struggling to find her place; Vai (New Zealand) by director Marina Alofagia McCartney is a portmanteau feature film by 9 female Pacific filmmakers. Chinese auteur, Zhang Wei’s The Rib is about the strained relationship between a young man wanting a sex change operation, and his Christian father; Nigerian film Mokalik directed by Kunle Afolayan follows an 11-year-old boy from the middle-class suburbs who spends the day as a lowly apprentice at a mechanic workshop in order to view life from the other side of the tracks. 


Some of the documentaries in competition include South Africa director Nicole Schafer’s Buddha in Africa, which recently opened the Encounters Film Festival, Anbessa (Italy/USA) directed by Mo Scarpelli, a coming-of-age story that captures a boy taking on modernization, Maya Newell’s, In My Blood it Runs (Australia), about an Aboriginal boy whose traditional skills are of no value within the modern education system.  Fatma Riahi’s A Haunted Past (Qatar) is a personal portrait of a broken Tunisian-Bosnian family as ex-prisoner and ex-jihadist. Hamada (Sweden) by director Eloy Domínguez Serén, is a humorous, bittersweet portrait of three uncompromising twentysomethings cut off from the world in a refugee camp; Edward Watts and Waad al-Kateab’s For Sama (UK/USA/Syria) takes an intimate look at one young woman’s struggles with love, war and motherhood. Mother I am Suffocating. This Is My Last Film About You by Lesotho filmmaker Mosese Lemohang Jeremiah, is an extended, poetic letter to the protagonist’s mother and motherland. Sara de Gouveia, The Sounds of Masks (SA/Portugal) follows a compelling storyteller and legendary Mozambiquan masked dancer. My Friend, Fela (Brazil) directed by Joel Zito Araujo, explores the life of legendary Nigerian musician Fela Kuti. A Girl in Return (Denmark) directed by Katrine W.Kjaer, an intimate tale about what happens when an adopted teenage girl decides to reclaim her lost identity.


“We are pleased to announce that once again, the winner in the documentary competition will automatically qualify for consideration for nomination for an Academy Award,” says Zhou.


Venues this year include Suncoast Cine Centre, Musgrave Ster Kinekor, Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, Denis Hurley Centre, EKhaya Multi-Arts Centre, Max’s Lifestyle, Ohlange Museum, Tate’s Kasi Grill, Artizen Lounge, KZNSA, Bay of Plenty Lawns (Wavescapes Opening), Ushaka Marian World, Luthuli Museum, K-cap, Garden Court


The Durban International Film Festival, is hosted by the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Centre for Creative Arts in various venues around Durban from 18 to 28 July, 2019. The full programme will go online at the end of June 2019. For more information go to or follow on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

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