South African films rise to prominence at Diff

The country produced three of the six films in contention for the AsiaAfrica award at the Dubai International Film Festival.

South Africa dominates the list of African films airing at this year's Dubai International Film Festival (Diff). Of the six African movies vying for the prestigious Muhr AsiaAfrica film award, three are from South Africa.

"The crop of African cinema this year has been particularly rich, and we are confident that this year's showcase will prove very popular with Dubai audiences," said Nashen Moodley, Diff's director for AsiaAfrica. "These African films stand alongside the best of international cinema and will ensure a very diverse and close competition."

The best known film competing in this year's competition is the adaptation of the novel Chandra's Secrets, called Life, Above All. The story of a young Aids orphan in Sub-Saharan Africa debuted at Cannes ,where it received a standing ovation and won the François Chalais prize.

The award is given every year to the film that best "captures the reality of the world". Previous winners have included the famous biopic of Ernesto Guevara, The Motorcycle Diaries.

Mr Moodley was present at the debut in Cannes.

"It was amazing, the film received a 20-minute standing ovation after the screening," he said. "I think it's the type of film that works fantastically with viewers."

He attributes this to the film's universal message and the strength of the performance by the film's young actresses. "I think people will be very impressed by the mature performances by very young actresses."

As a South African, Mr Moodley is most excited about the chance to showcase work by the director of Life, Above All, Oliver Schmitz. "For me, as a film watcher, Oliver Schmitz is one of the greatest directors that South Africa has ever produced," said Mr Moodley. "One of the great tragedies is that his work was never appreciated in South Africa as it should have been. I think that this is the film that will not only give him the attention he deserves globally, but also at home."

Other films include the story of a small town in South Africa plagued by xenophobic violence against Zimbabwean migrant workers. A Small Town Called Descent takes a dark look at South African politics and society.

Rounding up the entries from South Africa is the crime thriller, State of Violence. Fana Mokoena, best known for his role as General Augustin Bizimungu in Hotel Rwanda, plays Bobedi, whose former life in the underworld comes back to haunt him when his wife, Joy, is murdered before his eyes.

From Ghana comes the movie, The Nine Muses, which follows the travails of immigrants to the UK from Africa, Asia and the Caribbean.

From Cameroon comes A Screaming Man and Koundi and the National Thursday. A Screaming Man, which won the jury prize at Cannes, depicts the troubled relationship between a father and son in war-torn Chad.

Rounding out the entries from Africa this year is the sci-fi drama from Kenya, Pumzi. The film, set in a post-apocalyptic Kenya, where humans live in underground cities, garnered critical acclaim at this year's Sundance Festival.

While Pumzi will not compete for a Muhr award, it will feature as part of Diff's African cinema showcase.

Awards are given in three categories: feature films, short films and documentaries. First prize for feature films is Dh183,625 with Dh146,900 for the other two categories.