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Cape Town Film Festival kicks off with SA's Oscar hopeful

2018-10-10 14:49
Sew the Winter to my Skin director Jahmil X.T. Qub

Cape Town - The South African film industry might have taken a hit in recent years with domestic market share dropping to 4% in 2017, but festivals like The Cape Town International Film Market and Festival have set out to spur investment and interest in the emerging voices and visions that abound in this country and beyond. 

On Tuesday night, Cape Town rolled out the red carpet to open the festival that boasts a slate that includes some 80 feature films, 20 documentaries, and 66 short films, selected out of more than 700 entries from 78 countries across the globe. 

Of these, South Africa represents ten of the feature films to be screened, including Nicola Hanekom’s Cut-Out Girls, Aya, a film written in two days and shot in three, Sara Blecher’s gangster genre-based Mayfair, as well as renowned director Sallas de Jager’s Dominee Tienie

But while diverse talents are honoured in the festival line-up, one of the most timely and necessary discussions is sadly neglected. Cut-Out Girls, loosely based on Hanekom’s stage play that deals with date rape, is one of only a handful of films that deals in the realm of the #MeToo movement. 

While there is a strong body of work by women filmmakers, and the inclusion of films concerning women’s and minorities’ rights, the absence of the necessary filmic discussion of sexual assault is vexing.

The slate of LGBTQ films, however, speaks truth to the festival’s commitment to creating space for rising, or underrepresented talent from and about this community. These include South African Christiaan Olwagen’s Kanarie, Dutch director Ellen Smit’s Just Friends (Gewoon Vriendin), and the beautiful Rafiki (Friend), the much-acclaimed Kenyan drama by Wanuri Kahiu. 


The festival opened with South Africa’s official submission in the foreign language category of next year’s Oscars, Sew the Winter to my Skin. Director Jahmil X.T. Qubeka’s film will compete for a coveted nomination against 87 submissions that also includes first-time entrants Niger and Malawi.

Over the past film release season, Cold War (by Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski) and Kazakhstan’s Ayka have emerged as clear favourites for the prize, having won some of the most prestigious awards at Cannes with incandescent performances and vivid directing. 

The road ahead will be tough for Sew the Winter to my Skin, as it suffers several miscues that hinders a rich visual experience that transforms the American-centric Western genre into an African Wild West. Several plot points that are left unattended for too long or introduced only to be foregone creates a confusing journey that could surely be epic had it shaved superfluous scenes and tightened the editing with a more focused vision of the story the filmmaker set out to tell. 

The film was, nevertheless, a strong choice to open the festival, which also presents a trading platform for local and international stakeholders – especially as Qubeka’s style is bold and untethered from “safe” and established genres and approaches. The film’s flaws then, seems less important in the present moment than his ideas of new, undaunted filmmaking and how to spread it, like a contagion, amongst his younger peers.

And gleaned from the audience’s reaction, the film impressed and entertained. The loud cheers and applause was met with a beaming smile from Qubeka, as well as his heartfelt thanks to the film’s editor Layla Swart. He also brought the cast and crew up on the stage with him, acknowledging their work and commitment to produce a film that could very well bring South Africa’s next Oscar home. 


The festival runs until 19 October. The films are screened at the V&A Waterfront, and tickets are available here.

Read more on:    ctifmf 2018  |  film festival  |  movies

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