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Durban International Film Festival announces films in competition

July 7, 2021

This year, for its 42nd edition, the Durban International Festival (DIFF) – set to run from 22 July to 1 August 2021 – presents a programme of close to 140 feature films, documentaries and short films alongside an exciting industry programme: Isiphethu.

DIFF 2021 will open with a virtual screening of the action-thriller, The Eagle’s Nest, by Cameroon Born British director Olivier Assoua. From 23 July all other films will be available to watch for free online. Documentary ‘Threshold’ by the Brasilian Coraci Ruiz is the closing film and will be screening on 1 August just after the annual DIFF Award Ceremony. The DIFF jury is consisting of an international team of industry specialists including South African producer Cait Pansegrouw, filmmaker Sam Soko from Kenya and Dutch producer Raymond Van Der Kaaij.

The DIFF Awards
Head of programming, Chipo Zhou is proud to announce the films in competition, that are diverse but have a common thread.

“The DIFF deliberately cultivates indigenous talent development and grants access to audiences and aspirant filmmakers particularly women, children, LGBTQI+ communities in highly conservative regions of the world. Ultimately, all the narratives in competition speak to this vision and are an illustration of the challenges of overcoming adversity and adapting to an altered world — one where, sadly, not everyone has fared so well. These are the kinds of stories that DIFF sought out this year, stories of hope, stories that show the light at the end of the tunnel, even if for now, it seems like just a flicker. “ says Zhou.

Documentaries in the 2021 Competition

  • Areum Married, in which director Areum Parkkang tries juggling her film and her marriage in this autobiographical documentary. The Republic of Korea, 2021
  • As I Want, directed by an emerging voice in Arabic documentary film making, Samaher Alqadi, who picks up her camera as a form of protection and begins documenting the growing women’s rebellion. Egypt, 2021
  • Downstream to Kinshasa, in which director Dieudo Hamadi shares the forgotten tragedy of the victims of the six-day war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, 2021
  • Hard Livings, a film about a city, a country and a continent plagued by ills stemming from inequality, directed by Solomon Staggie, South Africa, 2021
  • I Am Here, in which we meet the phenomenal 98-year old Ella Blumenthal through the eyes of the director Jordy Sank. South Africa, 2021
  • I, Mary, in which director Aliki Saragas Georgiou shares a lyrical telling of Regina Mary Ndlovu’s story who is a survivor of a lifetime of sexual abuse, and a fiercely determined woman with Albinism. South Africa, 2021
  • Mein Vietnam, about a Vietnamese couple that has been living in Germany for the past 30 years by director Thi Hien Mai. Germany/Vietnam, 2020
  • Murder in Paris, a political crime thriller doccie that traces the motives for the assassination of anti-Apartheid activist, Dulcie September by director Enver Samuel. South Africa, 2021
  • Postcard, Finding an old picture postcard of a mountain village marks the start of an existential journey for director Asmae El Moudir. She explores life in Zawia, Morocco, where her mother was born. Morocco, Qatar, 2020
  • The Colonel’s Stray Dogs, a profile of political activist Ashur Shamis, who lives with a million-dollar bounty on his head after a lifetime in Muammar Gadaffi’s crosshairs, directed by Ashurs father, Khalid Shamis. South Africa, 2021
  • The Last Shelter, by Malian director Ousmane Samassekoou, in which we journey to the Malian city of Goa on the edge of the breath-taking Sabel Dester, where audiences get an inside look into the infamous House of Migrants. South Africa, 2021
  • The Sit-In, Harry Belafonte Hosts The Tonight Show, in which director Yoruba Richen examines the importance of this lost broadcast history through vibrant interviews. USA, 2021
  • Zinder, directed by Aicha Macky, is a town in Niger, where in the impoverished area of Kara-Kara, which used to be the lepers’ district, a culture of gang violence reigns. Niger, 2021

Features in the 2021 Competition: 

  • Coming of age story, A Little Bird Reminds Me, directed by Shi Xin, follows the joys, sorrow and struggle of a Chinese boy and his family during the last decade of the 20th century. China, 2020
  • Granada Nights, directed by Abid Khan, in which a British-Pakistani tourist must mend his broken heart before he can restart his life in the transient city of Granada in Spain. UK, 2021
  • Psychological thriller Lost directed by Driss Roukhe in which a young woman finds herself in the middle of a conspiracy. Morocco, 2021
  • My Son, directed by Equan Choe, in which a father, taking care of his 18-year old, handicapped son, can’t turn his son down as he declares his independence, Republic of Korea, 2020
  • Nandi, directed by Khalid EL-Jelailati, follows the spiralling journey of Nandi in the underbelly of the criminal world. South Africa, 2021
  • Pusha Pressa Phanda, directed by Dick d’vLz Reubïn, follows the story of street youth Mandisa as she struggles to obtain medication and sanitary pads for her sister who is under her care, South Africa, 2021
  • Rickshaw Girl, a personal story, directed by Amitabh Reza Chowdhury in which a daring and artistic Bangladeshi teenaged girl disguises herself as a boy and braves the dangers of the big city. Bangladesh, 2021
  • Sons of the Sea, directed by John Gutierez, in which a gifted reclusive teenager from a poor South African fishing community, is pressured by his older brother to steal two bags of ocean treasure – abalone, from a dead man. South Africa, 2020
  • Valentina, directed by Cássio Pereira dos Santos in which trans girl and her mother move to a new town in order to start fresh, but quickly face dilemmas when the local high school needs a second parental signature for enrolment. Brasil, 2020
  • The opening film, action-thriller The Eagle’s Nest, directed by Olivier Assoua, a story set in Africa on migration and poverty.UK/Cameroon, 2021

The full programme of shorts, consisting of a selection of 52 powerful short films that were thoughtfully curated for DIFF2021, are in competition.

Programme and details
The full programme, alongside all the films that will be screening, is accessible through www.durbanfilmfest.com. Tickets for the virtual screenings are only available from South Africa and free, and accessible through a booking system, which will open on 21 July.

The 42nd edition of the festival is organised by the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Centre for Creative Arts, in partnership and with the support of the KZN Film Commission, the National Film and Video Foundation, Department of Arts & Culture, the Film and Publications Board and other valued funders and partners.


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