The Gauteng Film Commission is mounting a marketing drive at South Africa’s National Arts Festival, currently underway in Grahamstown. While theatre was originally the main thrust of the festival, film is now an increasingly important component.

A still from Skeem, one of the local movies on show at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown.

This year’s festival is a good indication of the growing maturity of the local film industry, with a rich variety of South African films being screened – documentary, drama, comedy, science fiction and more.

We take a look at the highlights.

31 Million Reasons

(South Africa 2012)
Director: John Barker
Cast: Jack Devnarain, Trevor Gumbi and Neville Pillay
Cops, robbers and bloody hot curries – a home-grown heist movie with a touch of Bollywood. The director of the vastly successful Bunny Chow returns with a wonderful Indo-South African comedy about a corrupt cop, Ronnie, who has pretensions to being above the criminal classes and who desperately wants to clean up his act. Ronnie is given the chance to go legit as a cash-in-transit security guard but only if he orchestrates the biggest cash heist in South African criminal history.
Duration 90 minutes


(South Africa 2011)
Director: Dylan Valley
With: Jitsvinger, Kyle Shepherd and Bliksemstraal
Afrikaaps breaks ground by boldly attempting to reclaim Afrikaans as a language of liberation. Hip hop poet and performer Jitsvinger, jazz pianist Kyle Shepherd and singer and poet Blaq Pearl trace the origins of Afrikaans back to the 1600s, and follow it through to the present day in a musical, captured by the film. By combining various musical styles, poetry and video, they set out to redefine the untold story of the language as it has developed over the years. In true hip hop style, incorporating beats and rhymes, glitches and scratches, this hiphopera looks at the language of the people of the Cape and its different influences.
Duration 60 minutes

Between The Lines

(South Africa 2011)
Director: Thishiwe Ziqubu
Cast: Purity Zihle Mkhize, Morne Nevelling and Siyabonga Buthelezi
The story of a young woman – a broken-hearted book-lover – who journeys from love to love, catapulting into erratic promiscuity, before ultimately attaining true self definition through the art of release. An internal journey fuelled by books and the love of books. Age Restriction 15 years + (S)
Duration 17 minutes

Black Butterflies

(Netherlands/South Africa 2011)
Director: Paula van der Oest
Cast: Carice van Houten, Rutger Hauer and Liam Cunningham
Included in the programme despite its considerable flaws, Black Butterflies is interesting primarily for it being a take on the life of the South African poet, Ingrid Jonker. She was the daughter of a Minister of Censorship; she had highly charged sexual liaisons with Sestiger poets Jack Cope and Andre P Brink; she inspired the high point of Sestiger literature Orgie; she committed suicide by drowning; and Nelson Mandela read her poem The Dead Child of Nyanga at his inauguration. Any film about Jonker, is worth consideration, and Black Butterflies does provide a ground for debate.
Duration 100 minutes

Breathe Again

(South Africa 2012)
Director: Kurt Orderson
As a young black man growing up in Bonteheuwel on the Cape Flats in the seventies, the oppressive voice of the apartheid regime annihilated all sense of freedom Derrick Orderson could hope to enjoy. As human beings, our sense of hearing beneath the water is altered. So he swam; because those voices that sought to remove his sense of freedom were distorted, and, for a brief moment, there was the revelry in the hope that they might not invade this space – this reprieve from the heat and dust of the Cape Flats. He went into serious training and reached Olympic qualifying times, but there was nowhere to progress in South Africa for black athletes.
Duration 72 minutes

Interactions: A Strategy Of Difference and Repetition

(South Africa 2012)
Director: Aryan Kaganof
Commissioned by the Theater Institut Netherlands as “a film report on an expert meeting” of art professionals, the film, as delivered by non-linear filmmaker Kaganof, led to an exchange of e-mails which underline how the expectations of producers and the creative imagination of artists is so often at deviance. Featuring Ismail Mahomed and Malcolm Purkey amongst others,, and narrated by Mike van Graan, what is even more amusing is that the conference on which the “film report” was being made, was about artistic strategies.

The Last Lions

(South Africa/Botswana 2011)
Director: Dereck Joubert
Narration: Jeremy Irons
Fifty years ago, there were close to half-a-million lions in Africa. Today there are around 20 000. To make matters worse, lions, unlike elephants, which are far more numerous, have virtually no protection under government mandate or through international accords. This is the jumping-off point for a disturbing, well researched and beautifully made cri du coeur, from husband and wife team Dereck and Beverly Joubert, award-winning filmmakers from Botswana, who have been Explorers-in-Residence at National Geographic for more than four years.
Duration 80 minutes

Man On Ground

(South Africa 2011)
Director: Akin Omotoso
Cast: Hakeem Kae-Kazeem, Fabian Adeoye Lojede and Fana Mokoena
A cross-hybridisation of police procedural thriller and Bergmanesque mediation on intra-African immigration, Man on the Ground boasts some literally fantastic visual flourishes. The tale is essentially a missing person’s story about estranged brothers Ade, a London-based banker and Femi, a political activist who has been imprisoned, tortured, run out of his own country and last seen living on the street in Johannesburg. When Femi goes missing, Ade tries to find him. The film reconfirms Omotoso as one of most original filmmakers to be working in South Africa. He was the winner of the Standard Bank Young Award for Film in 2009.
Duration 88 minutes


(South Africa 2011)
Director: Craig Freimond
Cast: Riaad Moosa, Vincent Ebrahim and Joey Rasdien
Cassim Karif is a young Muslim man, who works in his father’s fabric shop in Fordsburg, Johannesburg. In the family tradition, Cassim, as the only son, is expected to take over the family business from his father. He discovers a hidden talent for comedy as a stand-up comedian, a path which will not only bring him into conflict with his father but also with his other family members and most of his community. Local comics Moosa and Rasdien are great and it is wonderful to see Vincent Ebrahim back on these shores after his success in the UK in The Kumars at No 42.
Duration 90 minutes

My Hunter’s Heart

(South Africa 2011)
Directors: Craig & Damon Foster
Shot over three and a half years, the film explores the world’s most ancient shamanic culture, which is severely threatened as their traditional way of life and skills have been taken away from them. It tracks the Khomani San of the Southern Kalahari, the oldest living indigenous tribe in the world, who are genetically linked to every human being on planet Earth. In modern times, their traditional, nomadic way of life has changed, and westernisation has severed their link to the land and the animals.
Duration 90 minutes

On the Trail of Bowakazi

(South Africa 2012)
Director: Nicole Schafer
With: Richard Stanley, Bosvark
Richard Stanley goes in search of the Karoo Shapeshifting Monster. During his visit to the National Arts Festival in 2011, filmmaker Richard Stanley, director of the shape-shifting masterpiece Dust Devil, was amazed to be told that a shape-shifter, who alternated between dog and man, was terrifying the small Karoo town of Steytlerville. Deserting his post at the Festival, Stanley and filmmaker Nicole Schafer went off in search of what the locals termed Bowakazi.
Duration: 20 minutes


(Kenya/South Africa 2010)
Director: Wanuri Kahiu
Cast: Kudzani Moswella, Chantelle Burger
Kenya’s first sci-fi film is visually breathtaking. In a post-apocalyptic future, years after World War III, where water is scarce, an African girl escapes the clutches of the underground facility where she works, with one of the last gleams of life, a small plant. A compelling film made by the producers of Alive in Joburg, the precursor to District 9.
Duration 21 minutes

Rradinokga – Father of Snakes

(UK / South Africa 2011)
Director: Immo Horn
Adrian Boshier was a young Englishman who went to South Africa and found his calling as a shaman amongst the Sotho of the Transvaal. He discovered a particular affinity with snakes, with which he was able to develop strange and complex relationships. A serious epileptic, he was warned by his shaman to progress to the next level of initiation which would appease the spirits and also cure his epilepsy. For some reason the special white man, the Father of Snakes who was also identified with the sacred Lightning Bird, would not do it. This fascinating documentary is a fitting companion piece to Lyall Watson’s acclaimed book on Boshier’s The Lightning Bird.
Duration: 67 minutes


(South Africa 2011)
Director: Tim Greene
Cast: Kurt Schoonraad, Lilani Prinsen and Terence Bridget
Halfway home from a drug sale in Johannesburg, two wannabe gangsters run into trouble when their car breaks down in the middle of nowhere. Forced to spend the rest of the night at a creepy old holiday resort, their problems escalate when unpacking their car, their box of cash splits open, spilling a million bucks in eye-catching bundles all over the driveway. They scoop it up but eyes are watching from the various other run-down chalets and the okes in them begin to skeem.
Duration 90 minutes


(South Africa 2012)
Director: Diony Kempen
Cast: Ronnie Nyakele, Justin Strydom and Carmel Fisher
When a troubled ex-convict drops out of society and heads for the bush to find solace with nature, he teams up with a renegade poacher and an independent eco-warrior woman to bring a pair of corrupt game farm owners and the head of a rhino killing syndicate to justice. In South Africa, a rhino is killed every 24 hours. This film is a response to this crisis but it is also a thrilling entertainment that will make audiences think about the genocide of one of Africa’s greatest species.
Duration 105 minutes

The Terence McKenna Omnibus 2012

(South Africa 2012)
Director: Mike Kawitzky
The Terence McKenna Omnibus 2012 is a pre-release of a 12 part series for the National Arts Festival. It is a series of loosely structured lectures by Terence McKenna, ethnonotanist, inventor of Novelty Theory and one of the originators of the Mayan 2012 ethos, which took place at Rustlers Valley in South Africa in 1996.
Duration 50 minutes