Get ready for Durban International Film Festival 2012

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Today marks the start of the 33rd annual Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) – South Africa’s largest and longest-running film festival.

From 19 - 29 July, festival attendees will be able to choose from nearly 300 screenings of feature-length movies, documentaries and short films from around the world. These showings take place at various venues around the city, including Gateway Cinema Nouveau, Musgrave Ster Kinekor, Suncoast CineCentre and the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre. In many cases, filmmakers will be in attendance to answer questions afterwards.

Bookings for DIFF screenings can be made via the individual venues - by phone or online where available.

Every year, movies are chosen according to themes, and DIFF 2012 selections include a focus on African cinema, contemporary European life, eco-exploitation and Japanese moviemaking.

As usual, DIFF also includes the Wavescape Surf Film Festival, a mini-festival that caters specifically for lovers of the big blue, great outdoors and extreme sports. And in addition to regular movie screenings, free workshops and seminars will be held during the day and are open to all.

The following are my personal top 10 picks of DIFF 2012:

Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope:
A feature length documentary from the Morgan (Super Size Me) Spurlock that follows 5 attendees for whom San Diego Comic-Con has massive significance. A joyful celebration of geekdom, including interviews with the likes of Stan Lee, Joss Whedon and Harry Knowles.

Sleeping Beauty:
This erotic Aussie drama caused a stir when it debuted at Cannes 2011. Emily Browning is a young woman who becomes a “niche” prostitute – letting clients do what they want to her while she’s unconscious.

Blitz Patrollie:
Proving film fests aren’t just about highbrow fare, there’s the world premiere of this action comedy, scripted by comedian Kagiso Lediga, and starring Joey Rasdien and David Kau as Jozi cops and mismatched partners. Could this be South Africa’s Hot Fuzz?

Adventures in Zambezia:
Arguably South Africa’s most ambitious and polished animated film to date. From Triggerfish Animation Studios, this comedy adventure sees a young falcon move to the bird city of Zambezia. Voices of Samuel L Jackson, Jeff Goldblum and Abigail Breslin. In 3D.

Beasts of the Southern Wild:
This fantasy drama was a huge hit earlier this year at both the Sundance and Cannes Film Festivals, scooping the Grand Jury and Camera d’Or prizes. Reality and imagination blur for a little girl in a bayou community when her father falls ill, and the universe starts to unravel.

An animated film about the life and short stories of highly influential manga artist Yoshihiro Tatsumi. Tatsumi’s experimental “Gekiga” style elevated Japanese cartooning from “kids’ stuff” to a respected entertainment medium for adults in the decades after World War II.

The Greatest Film Ever Sold:
Another documentary from Spurlock, this time exploring the controversial issue of product placement and advertising in movies and TV shows. This doccie depicts the experiment of trying to make a film funded entirely by advertising revenue.

To Rome with Love:
Writer-director Woody Allen’s latest light-hearted ensemble comedy, which see the writer-director in front of the camera for the first time in 6 years. Four interlocking romances feature the likes of Roberto Benigni, Alec Baldwin, Ellen Page, Penélope Cruz and Jesse Eisenberg.

Shadow Dancer:
A slow-burn, smart political thriller from the UK that’s looking like this year’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. During the early 90s Andrea Riseborough is an IRA activist pressured to spy on her family by Clive Owen’s British intelligence officer.

Hari-Kiri: The Death of a Samurai (3D):
An all-the-bells-and-whistles 3D remake of the classic 1962 film Harakiri. A disgraced 17th Century samurai seeks permission to commit suicide but finds himself in a moral quandary over responsibilities. From the director of 13 Assassins.

Some notable other movies screening at DIFF:

Haywire: Steven Soderbergh’s woman-fronted espionage actioner. The film’s nationwide release is also very soon – on 9 August.

Bel Ami: Twilight star Robert Pattinson tries to up his acting credibility in this 19th Century French novel adaptation, about a master manipulator of wealthy women.

Copposites: A local body-switch comedy that sees Rob van Vuuren’s posturing Afrikaans policeman swap bodies with small time crook Sivuyile Ngesi.

Semisweet: Life in Chocolate: A feature length documentary examining the history and influence (good and bad) of everyone’s favourite sweet treat.

For the record, you can pick up a handy pocket-sized DIFF programme for free at screening venues. Alternatively, you can download the guide here.
DIFF official site:
DIFF on Twitter: @DIFFest


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