South Africa’s annual human rights film festival takes place in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and Pretoria from 1 October 2010. This year it will work in partnership with Greenpeace, Freedom of Expression Institute, Lawyers for Human Rights, Human Rights Watch and the Goethe-Institute to celebrate the role that independent film plays in supporting a free and open society.
The fight against poverty, for human security and freedom, is inextricably linked to the protection of the planet’s resources and an urgent rethink on how they are owned, controlled and distributed.
This year, they have an unprecedented number of films from Africa, an indication that despite the squeeze on funding for film, there remains an urgency to expose inequality and to give voice to those who are so often marginalized.
All logic dictates it should not have been possible to run an event of this size this year. Recession has bitten hard in to the budgets of their key supporters, namely the SABC and the Gauteng Film Commission, whom in turn have been forced to withdraw support for the festival. The demise of the public broadcaster, along with the growth of smaller less affluent channels, has resulted in a serious tightening of the screws on funding for documentary film, as well as fewer and fewer opportunities for the airing of pluralistic, diverse voices to mass audiences.
And all of this at a time when they need these voices more than ever. In a period where South Africans face the clawing back of social reforms and find themselves fighting to defend hard won democratic freedoms, the role of independent documentary film cannot be underestimated.
Perhaps this explains why 2010 has seen some urgent filmmaking in South Africa by a generation of talented filmmakers who have responded to the demise of traditional funding models with an array of independent films that are refreshing in their poignancy and desperately in search of serious platforms. It’s one thing getting these films made, and another ensuring they are seen by as many people as possible. This is the role of festivals such as Tri-Continental, with its aim of showcasing beautifully crafted and meaningful films to mass audiences, while hosting forums for debate and film education. This way they keep open the channels of communication between audiences for film, civil society, the media and the state.
Films from South Africa include Andy Spitz’s We Are Nowhere, an uncomfortable reminder that not enough has been done to address the causes of xenophobia and that the spark that lit the original flame still burns brightly; Arya Lalloo’s Citizen X, an unflinching portrait of civil unrest in the New South Africa, recently crowned the most unequal society in the world; David Forbes’ The Cradock Four, set in 1985, details one of Apartheid’s murkiest and most controversial assassinations; Odette Geldenhuys’ Here Be Dragons, tells the story of George Bizos, the man renowned for saving Nelson Mandela from the gallows, for the inquest into the death of Steve Biko and for more human rights cases than any other lawyer in South Africa; Rehad Desai’s The Battle for Johannesburg, captures the changing face of Johannesburg while raising urgent questions about social investment, enduring poverty and alienated communities that refuse to live together.
The current tight economic environment has meant some tough decisions on the scope of the festival - a rolling back of outreach screenings, where films are taken to specific and hard to reach audiences. Thus the focus this year is one of getting audiences to cinemas to watch our films, films that shine a spotlight on a troubled world, and to take part in a series of debates hosted by our partners. In the fight against poverty, for human security and freedom, the effects of climate change can no longer be ignored. This year we team up with Greenpeace with a selection of films that highlight the inter-relationship between development, the environment and the survival of humanity itself.
Dirty Oil is a much anticipated feature documentary from Academy Award-Nominated director Leslie Iwerks and goes deep behind-the-scenes into the strip-mined world of Northern Alberta, Canada, where vast and toxic oil sands supply the US with the majority of its oil. The story is told through the eyes of scientists, Big-Oil officials, politicians, doctors, environmentalists and the aboriginal citizens directly affected by the largest industrial project on the planet today. Dirty Oil uncovers the emotional and irreversible toll this “Black goldrush” is talking on our planet.
Sweet Crude is a journey of multilayered revelation and ever-deepening questions. Beginning with a small group of peaceful, intelligent protestors taking a stand against the devastating effects of the operations of foreign oil corporations in the region. Their protest slowly morphs into something more violent and militant as lives and the environment are increasingly put at risk for profit. The film is a fascinating and urgent story about power gone corrupt, industry destroying without care for the consequences, the people left to deal with it all and a region on the verge of war.
The festival teams up with Human Rights Watch with a Kenyan/USA documentary, Good Fortune, that details the politics of international aid as it effects the lives to two Kenyan’s, one in Nairobi, the other in the rural countryside. This gripping film shows how massive international efforts to alleviate poverty in Africa can undermine the very communities they aim to benefit.
A series of screenings this year will be dedicated to the fundamental democratic right of Freedom of Expression. These films include, An Independent Mind, a feature-length documentary that details increasing attacks on this cornerstone of democracy and the underpinning of any ‘free’ society; and American Radical, featuring American academic Norman Finkelstein, son of holocaust survivors and an ardent critic of Israel and US Mid-East policy, a deeply polarizing figure whose struggles arise from core questions about freedom, identity and nationhood.
This year the festival partners the Goethe-Institut in hosting a series of film workshops, aimed at filmmakers and people in the industry.
Other film titles include
From Africa: From Asia and the Middle East: From Latin America:
Afrikaaps Gaza on Air Altiplano
Afrikaner Afrikaan Nero’s Guests Our Disappeared
Forest of Crocodiles The Red Chapel Beyond Ipanema
Driving with Fanon Cowboys in India
Mugabe and the White African
White As Blood
A Place Without People
The Hillside Crowd
On The Other Side of Life
A Small Town Called Descent
Where Do I Stand?
“Soweto sneezed…and then we caught the Fever”
The Tri Continental Film Festival will take place at the following cinemas:
- · Cinema Nouveau Rosebank (Johannesburg) 01 - 10 October
- · Ster Kinekor Maponya Mall (Johannesburg) 01 - 03 October
- · Cinema Nouveau V&A Waterfront (Cape Town) 26 – 31 October
- · The Bioscope Independent Cinema, Fox Street, Johannesburg 03 – 10 October
- · Cinema Nouveau Brooklyn Mall (Pretoria) 08 - 14 October
- · Cinema Nouveau Gateway (Durban) 15 - 21 October
For more info and ticket details, click here or here.
Issued by Tri-Continental Festival