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14 French films at the Durban International Film Festival!

South Africa's longest running cinema festival has just launched its 32nd edition. During 12 days, the DIFF will screen over 250 films from around the world – see the full list here. France is massively represented this year again with 14 French productions or co-productions on the program, and 3 feature films selected for the official competition among them. No panic if you cannot attend the DIFF this year: Intofrench offers you a brief survey of these exciting French works.



Benda Bilili (documentary). Summer 2009: paraplegics teenagers light up the stage in front of an entranced audience of thousands. Chances of success were slim at first for these homeless handicapped artists who struggled to survive in the streets of Kinshasa. "Benda Bilili" - in English "See Beyond", is the name of this Congolese band which has now acquired a global audience. This documentary is the story of a dream come true – and a rough plunge into the streets of the Congolese capital city. Directed by Renaud Barnet.

Black Venus. This moving work is based on the life of Saartjie Baartman, the Khoi woman who was exhibited in Europe in the 19th century as the ‘Hottentot Venus’ and whose name has become an icon of the dehumanising arrogance of colonialism. Two times awarded the prestigious French "César" for the best director, Abdellatif Kechiche moves here beyond political correctness by drawing us into voyeurism and creating a sense of uncomfortable complicity.

Flowers of Evil (competition feature). Set in Paris in 2009, Flowers of Evil narrates the love affair that develops between free-wheeling Parisian, Rachid, and the Iranian Anahita, whose parents have dispatched her from politically tense Tehran. Taking place during the failed Iranian student uprisings, the film portrays the tensions between Anahita’s life in Paris and the life she left behind in Tehran. Directed by David Dusa.

The Giants. Seth and Zak are two close-knit brothers who live in the home of their late grandfather. Seemingly abandoned by their mother for the summer, the boys are broke and restless, but find ways to entertain themselves in the lush, green countryside. When they meet a young boy named Dany, the dynamic between the brothers changes and their adventures take on a more dangerous edge... Directed by Bouli Lanners.

The House under the Water. Just released from prison for drug trafficking, Morteza is accused of having drowned a teenager. Taher, the policeman investigating the case, is at first convinced of Morteza’s guilt, but he soon realises that they are old childhood friends, and that Morteza is probably not responsible for the drowning. However, Taher fails to convince his superiors and Morteza does little to proclaim his innocence. Set in modern Iran, The House Under the Water is a sophisticated interrogation of the nature of guilt, innocence and justice. Directed by Sepideh Farsi.

Late Bloomers. A delightful and intelligently scripted drama from Julie Gavras where William Hurt and Isabella Rossellini play a well-to-do middle-class couple whose marriage of many years is running into trouble as they have started moving reluctantly in the direction of old age.

Man at Bath. Film director Omar lives together with his boyfriend Emmanuel in Paris. One day as Omar is about to leave for New York for a promotional tour of his film, he is raped by his lover, after which he tells him that he must be gone by the time he returns. The rest of the film is devoted to documenting the couple’s separate sexual and emotional adventures over the next week.Although Man at Bath is sexually graphic and rendered at a helter-skelter pace, it also transcends its sprawling narrative to produce an honest portrait of a relationship between two men and their attempts to stop loving each other. Directed by Christophe Honoré.

Man without a cell phone. This endearing and sharply humorous film about Palestinian youth culture introduces viewers to a generation of twenty-something slackers who find themselves caught between angry parents and suspicious Israelis, when all they really want to do is have fun. Directed by Sameh Zoabi.

Rubber. In Rubber, a rubber car tyre comes to life and subsequently goes on an extensive killing spree, which it achieves by vibrating at a specific frequency that makes people’s heads explode. Wonderfully intelligent and gloriously stupid, the film takes great pleasure in drawing out its simple absurd premise into an entertaining and beautifully executed piece of cinema. Rubber is an instant cult classic, one of the strangest small films you’re ever likely to see and a bizarre triumph for French director Quentin Dupieux aka. French electronic music star Mr Oizo.

Skoonheid (competition feature). An Intofrench favourite – see previous article here Skoonheid tells the sensitively rendered story of a closeted married man named Francois who finds himself deeply attracted to the beautiful adult son of old family friends. While Francois has managed to keep his sexuality secret thus far in his life, the young man stirs something in him that threatens to unravel his carefully constructed world. The film won the Queer Palm award at Cannes this year for the best film dealing with gay, lesbian, bisexual or trans-gender issues. Directed by Oliver Hermanus.

The Snow of Kilimandjaro. No relation to the Hemingway novel of the same name, although it shares some of its themes. The Snows of Kilimanjaro tells the story of Michel who lives happily with his wife of more than thirty years, surrounded by a loving community of family and friends. The serenity of their idyllic life is shattered when two masked men break into their home and brutally hold them up. When Michel later learns that the crime was organised by a former colleague struggling to look after his two younger brothers, the shocking event becomes even more disturbing. Directed by Robert Guédiguian.

The Source (competition feature). For centuries, women in the village have fetched the water in the blazing sun from a remote mountaintop spring. But Leila, a young bride, thinks it’s time for things to change, and urges the women to launch a ‘love strike’, withholding sexual favours from their men folk until they take responsibility for carrying the water. This engaging comedy drama from talented Romanian-born film-maker Radu Mihaileanu, documents a battle of the sexes that takes place in the present time in an unnamed North-African village.

The Tales of the Night. Set in an abandoned cinema, a boy, a girl and an old film technician invent spectacular fairy tales involving princesses, monsters, strange beasts and people who change into animals, and then act them out in elaborate costumes with dazzling scenery. From French animation legend Michel Ocelot (Kirikou and the Sorceress,...) comes this gorgeously rendered film about the pleasure of storytelling and the joys of show business. Animated film in 3D.

Think global, Act rural (documentary). Think Global, Act Rural presents an argument for organic food from a new, more political perspective, which suggests that industrial food production, with its reliance on heavy machinery and chemical fertilizers, is not merely destructive and harmful to our bodies, but also morally wrong. Focusing on solutions, Think Global, Act Rural gives a voice to farmers, philosophers and economists who are inventing and experimenting with new alternatives, all the while explaining why our society is mired in the current ecological, financial and political crisis. Directed by Coline Serreau.

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