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The Cape Winelands Film Festival

leonvandermerwe2The Director of The Cape Winelands Film festival, Leon van der Merwe, was interviewed by Radio France Internationale journalist Kèoprasith Souvannavong. This article is online on the Radio France Internationale website.

- How came to you the idea of creating the Cape Winelands Film Festival?
I have been involved in arranging film festivals for quite a while here in South Africa and also organised several retrospectives of South African cinema at international events. With the demise of the Cape Town World Cinema event that was linked to a Festival Market in 2006, I realised that Audiences in the Western cape already miss out on so much of World Cinema that we had to do something. The initial idea was to create a festival that included other elements with film like Food and Wine. That worked quite well in the first year but as a result of a lack of funding and sponsorships we decided to concentrate on film only. And what better place to do this than in Stellenbosch, in the heart of the wine district of the Western Cape.


- What is the programme for this year? And what is the dominant characteristic or the main thematic in the present edition?
The programme for this year is very diverse with 180 feature films, Documentaries and Short Films from 52 Countries.
Because South Africa has still got a long way to go in terms of reconciling with the past, the festival has decided to focus on Reconciliation and the Acceptance of "The Other" for the next 3 years and for that reason we could not think of a better film to Open the festival that "Reconciliation: Mandela's Miracle" a documentary by film director Michael Henry Wilson. I've always believed that films creates an awareness and understanding of other cultures. It can literally transform the way we see the world. Every one of us has had these moments in which a film becomes more than just entertainment. By opening our eyes, by moving us to care and understand, films bring home the central issues of our times. It is so easy to stereotype people and here in South Africa it is no different from other countries. We make the same mistakes as other people but we hope by focussing on this issue that people may actually sit and think before they do or speak.

- What is the role of the French Institute Of South Africa (IFAS) and the French Embassy in your Festival?
Our mandate is to bring to the audience in the Western Cape films from around the world. Films we do not see in our local theatres anymore or even in the few Independent cinemas we still have left in the country. Everything that is played on the big screens is Hollywood blockbusters. Our theatres are flooded with 97% of Hollywood films. In 2010 that was even more than 97%. That leaves a small little 3% for local cinema and World Cinema. Because we do not have a great budget like many A Class film festivals we are dependent on institutions like IFAS , Culture France and UniFrance to bring to the audiences films from France we just would not get to see here in South Africa. In 2008 we opened with "La Vie en Roe" and we screened 27 French films at the festival (some recent some Classics). All of these screenings were SOLD OUT because the audiences are "hungry" for these films. All of this was done with the help of IFAS, Culture France and UniFrance. We are incredibly thankful for organisations like these that assist us to bring films like "Un Prophet" and "Copie Conforme" (Certified Copy) to the audiences.

Kèoprasith Souvannavong is Multimedia Chief Editor at Radio France Internationale and member of Network For The Promotion Of Asian Cinema (NETPAC)

Picture: Leon van der Merwe, Director of the Cape Winelands Film festival / K.Souvannavong

More information on Into French.org on "Copie Conforme" (Certified Copy)

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