stillbornA South African short film produced in Gauteng, with the narrative entirely in isiXhosa, was the opening film at the International BRICS Film Festival held in Chengdu, China, at the end of June.

The sci-fi drama Stillborn, written and directed by Jahmil XT Qubeka, was one of thirty new productions from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa to be screened at the annual film festival. Next year’s festival will be held in South Africa.

Qubeka has made a name for himself as one of South Africa’s most exciting young filmmakers. In 2013 he directed the critically acclaimed noir film Of Good Report and in 2011 he made the crime thriller A Small Town Called Descent. Both films courted controversy. Of Good Report, which deals with a teacher’s relationship with a 16-year-old girl, opened the Durban Film Festival before being banned by the Film and Publications Board as “child pornography”. The ban was later lifted.

The new movie Stillborn is about a futuristic robot obsessed with its human ancestry. It touches on African and science fiction themes such as cultural identity and the relationship between humans and technology. The film was shot largely at night, on industrial locations around Johannesburg, including at local mine shafts, refineries and the Orlando Towers in Soweto.

Arts and Culture Deputy Minister Makhotso Sotyu led a South African delegation to the festival, and said that the creative exchange between BRICS nations was an integral part of the theme of its most recent summit. Congratulating Qubeka and other South African filmmakers at the festival, Sotyu said that “film is one of the few unique artistic tools of expression that play an important role in cultural exchanges, co-existence and tolerance”.