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International Films

Bacon’s Arena

DIR: Adam Low / UK / 2006 / 95min

British painter, Francis Bacon lived a life as excessive as the violent images he depicted in his paintings. This fascinating documentary explores his life and career chronologically, using movie clips, interviews with family, friends, lovers, shots of his work, and archival footage. Low traces the influences on Bacon’s painting and his life - artists who inspired him, his obsession with violence and his penchant for rough sex with edgy men. He comes across as alternately charming, arrogant, drunk and just plain nasty. What do you make of a man who, just hours after finding his lover dead from an overdose, went to the opening of his exhibition? Ultimately, it was this ability to do exactly as he wanted that defined him as one of the most important painters of the 20th century.

Courtesy of the Michael Stevenson Gallery and the British Council

CAPE TOWN V&A: THU 19 / 6.45pm TUE 24 / 6.30pm FRI 27 / 8.15pm



Beyond The Summits

DIR: Rémy Tezier / France / 2008 / 90min

For climbers in the 80s and 90s, Catherine Destivelle is a myth, one of the world’s best, and then she moved, literally, to higher ground, her career culminating in solo ascents on the Eiger, the Dru, among others. Though her face remains familiar, she has faded from the climbing magazines in recent years. Here, now, we’re invited to follow her on three spectacular ascents in the Alps. She shares the sense of freedom and passion that the mountains inspire and the pleasure of reaching the summits. More than just an intimate portrait of Destivelle, the film sheds light on the close relationships that develop between climbers. The breathtaking cinematography, will make you feel that you are there with her in the magnificent Alpine environment, dwarfed by the immensity of soaring rock faces.

Courtesy of French Embassy.

Banff Mountain Film Festival Best Feature-length Film 2009
Adventure Film Festival of La Rochelle Public Award & Jury Award 2009
Mendi Film Festival Grand Prize 2009

CAPE TOWN V&A: SUN 15 / 6.15pm


City of Photos

DIR: Nishtha Jain / India / 2005 / 75min

City of Photos takes you into the grubby photo shacks of India. One would expect something of an ID photo industry; instead we see a rich culture of a nation observing itself. Surprisingly, this is not only done in context of vanity, but also in front of history. Subjects pose, poised before painted backdrops depicting natural disasters and some human ones that are universally familiar and horrifying. The unassuming cinematography beautifully juxtapositions portraits from over the centuries next to real lives, and is quietly narrated by the writer/director. If you are a professional or an amateur photographer the film will be a delight to your ambitions. For everybody else the story is something that is irrefutable in any life – an honest examination of how humans observe their lives and how even the most humble grapple for immortality of some kind in this manner.

CAPE TOWN V&A: MON 16 / 6.30pm
  LABIA: WED 25 / 8.30pm


Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould

DIR: Michèle Hozer & Peter Raymont / Canada / 2009 / 108min

‘I detest audiences. They are a force of evil,’ said Glenn Gould, the renowned pianist and ‘interpreter’ of JS Bach, who abandoned public performances at the height of his career, aged 32. His legendary eccentricities, tolerated because of his acknowledged genius, concealed a mounting paranoia that eventually isolated him. Nevertheless, Gould, a good looking awkward prodigy, was an attractive subject and he is probably the most-documented performer to date. The fêted anecdotes - his Moscow début, Bernstein’s introductory ‘disclaimer’ to their 1962 Brahms concert at the Carnegie - are included, but this film uses extensive new-found archival footage, excerpts from his diaries and interviews with friends and lovers, to reveal more of the man, the person, and his suitably complicated love life.

Courtesy of Films Transit International

CAPE TOWN V&A: SAT 21 / 8.15pm WED 25 / 8.15pm
  LABIA: MON 16 / 8.30pm
JOBURG   SUN 29 / 8pm


Monty Python almost the truth: the lawyer’s cut

DIRS: Bill Jones, Alan G Parker & Ben Timlett / UK / 2009 / 106min

How did a quintessentially English (apart from the lone American) off-the-wall comedy troupe conquer the world and change our sense of humour forever? Monty Python Almost The Truth may not answer the question, but it’s the first time the Python phenomenon
has been so candidly dissected on film. From childhood photos and home movies to their university days and early work in television, the documentary seeks to describe, if not explain, the complex characters that came together to form the most influential comedy
team in history. Surprisingly frank interviews with the surviving Pythons form a large part of the film, providing an inside view of the creative process, and the tensions. It’s peppered with best-loved snippets from their irreverent oeuvre, and don’t be surprised if some
in the audience join in the Dead Parrot sketch.

Courtesy of the Directors and the British Council

CAPE TOWN V&A: TUE 17 / 8.45pm FRI 27 / 8.15pm
  LABIA: FRI 13 / 8.30pm
JOBURG   SAT 21 / 6.15pm


The Oath

DIR: Laura Poitras / USA / 2010 / 96min

The Oath provides an insight into that very 21st century construct, the War on Terror, but decide for yourselves who the true warriors for justice really are. Built around the arrest and seven-year detention at Guantanamo Bay of Osama Bin Laden’s driver Salim Hamdan, we meet the man who recruited him, his brother-in-law and former bin Laden bodyguard Abu Jandal, and the US military lawyer defending the man Jandal feels he betrayed. Jandal has since turned his back on al Qaeda. Sweeping from Yemen, where Jandal has undergone a re-education programme, to Cuba and back again, this film paints in the countless shades of grey in a conflict routinely reduced to black and white.

Sundance 2010 Cinematography Award Documentary

CAPE TOWN V&A: TUE 24 / 8.30pm SAT 28 / 8.30pm
  LABIA: MON 16 / 6.30pm


Of Heart and Courage: BÉjart Ballet Lausanne

DIR: Arantxa Aguirre / Spain / 2009 / 80min

Gil Roman faces a thrilling challenge. He has ‘inherited’ the renowned Lausanne-based ballet company founded by his mentor, Maurice Béjart. He must choreograph and present his first ballet to an expectant audience who will make the inevitable comparisons. Dedication to maintaining the standards of ballet as a way of honouring the late Béjart is the leitmotif in this homage to human creativity, as is the rôle personal relationships play in inspiring excellence. Interviews with dancers, producers, a taxi driver and the wife of the former Shah of Iran all point the way artistic endeavour can elicit respect, pride and a sense of meaning. This is a gem of a film, not just for ballet aficionados, and what emerges is the delicate interplay between Roman and his dancers in producing an exquisite, exciting, exacting ballet.

CAPE TOWN V&A: SUN 15 / 8.15pm FRI 20 / 8.30pm SUN 29 / 8.15pm


On The Other Side of Life

DIR: Stefanie Brockhaus & Andy Wolff
Germany / 2009 / 88min

Deft and unobtrusive camerawork follow Bongani and Lucky, brothers on the edge of adulthood, living on the “edge of the edge” in Khayelitsha shantyland, to Pollsmoor, where they await trial for murder and their Makhulu to bail them out with her pension. In the beautiful mountains of the Eastern Cape, newly circumcised, they are initiated into the ways of men – time now to put aside rape, robbery and drugs, their grizzled Tat’omkhulu tells them, and find jobs and wives. But for these man-boys, dumped on their beloved grandmother when still infants and with nary a mention of their fathers in the sparse, compelling dialogue, the future holds little but more of the same. This film’s power lies in the stark simplicity of its telling: as the camera sweeps back for a panoramic vista of thousands of crowded shacks, you know this is not the story of just two young South African men, but of millions.

Courtesy of the Directors and Ten10 Films. The Directors travel courtesy of the Goethe-Institut International

DokFest Munich 2010 FFF Award and Starter Film Award

CAPE TOWN V&A: WED 18 / 8.30pm +Q&A WED 25 / 6.30pm
  LABIA: SAT 21 / 8.30pm +Q&A
JOBURG   TUE 24 / 8.30pm + Q&A



DIR: Zhao Liang / France / China
2009 / 124min

When it was shown out of competition at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Petition left its audience harrowed and humbled. For more than a decade Zhao Liang documented the experiences of the thousands of his fellow citizens who journey to Beijing to make a last-ditch appeal against the injustices and corruption of local officials. Some stay for years, living rough on the streets and in the alleyways around the Complaints Office of the Supreme People’s Court, hoping against hope for a successful outcome. The film is relentless in its exposure of the indifferent, often brutal, bureaucrats who hold the key to the petitioners’ fates, and the ruthless district officials who follow them to the capital, using physical violence to intimidate them into abandoning their suits. Lawless, unaccountable and inhumane, this is not a picture of China its government wants the world to see.

Courtesy of INA

Bratislava IFF 2009 Best Documentary
Official Selection Cannes Film Festival 2009

CAPE TOWN V&A: WED 18 / 6.30pm MON 23 / 8.15pm
  LABIA: THU 26 / 8pm
JOBURG   THU 26 / 9pm


Sins of My Father

DIR: Nicolas Entel / Columbia / Argentina
2009 / 75min

Some happily live in their father’s shadow, but when Dad is cocaine-baron Pablo Escobar, that shadow is dark, foreboding and seemingly endless. A fugitive for the last years of his father’s life, and exiled in Argentina since his death, Escobar’s son changed his name in an attempt to lead a ‘normal life’. But guiltless normality is hard to achieve with such an inheritance. Sebastián Marroquín opens the family’s film and photo archives and recounts his father’s life, as he remembers it. He neither shies away from his father’s brutality, nor justifies it. He takes brave steps at amends, reaching out to the sons of assassinated politicians, and attempts to halt the 20 year cycle of violence Escobar unleashed on Columbia. This timid and unlikely hero is central to a richly humane story of personal courage, emotional encounters, contemplative introspection and, ultimately, redemption.

Courtesy of the Director

Miami FF 2010 Grand Jury Prize / Audience Award
Sundance 2010 Nominated Grand Jury Prize

CAPE TOWN V&A: MON 16 / 8.30pm SUN 29 / 8.15pm
  LABIA: TUE 24 / 8.45pm
JOBURG   SUN 29 / 6pm


The Sound of Insects – Record of a Mummy

DIR: Peter Liechti / Switzerland
2009 / 88min

This prize-winning masterpiece is not to be missed by anyone interested in the documentary form. Inspired by Masahiko Shimada’s novel Until I am a Mummy, itself based on the diary of a man who has decided to starve himself to death in a forest, Liechti crosses seamlessly between reality, fiction and dream, expanding the limits of what is possible in cinema, providing a parallel filmic layer to the last meditations of someone retreating from life. Startlingly beautiful nature scenes alternate with dream-like images of city life, distorted reinterpretations of Bach, electronic noise, and the Zen-like patterns made by leaves and insects on the plastic sheet under which the narrator is dying. Liechti’s minimalistic vision negotiates between the renunciation of life and the power
of dreaming further through cinema… we wait on the line between life and death, and when the latter finally arrives, the effect is stupendous.

Courtesy of Pro Helvetia, Swiss Arts Council

Swiss Film Award 2010 Best Music
Planet Doc Review FF 2009 Warsaw Millenium Award
RIDM 2009 Montréal Camera-Stylo Award
European Film Award 2009 Best Documentary
Zürich Film Award 2009

CAPE TOWN V&A: THU 19 / 8.45pm MON 23 / 6.30pm
JOBURG   FRI 27 / 7.15pm


Turn it Loose

DIR: Alastair Siddons / UK / 2009 / 97min

Flares. Headspins. Power moves. These staples of B-Boy dance are all on display in Turn It Loose, which showcases the Red Bull BC One hosted in Soweto in 2007 where competitors vied for the coveted one-on-one breakdancing world champion’s trophy. The striking cinematography and editing capture the intense physicality of this hip-hop discipline in the heat of the battle. But, interestingly, it also reveals the emotional, spiritual and philosophical energy spent in preparing for gruelling competition. Siddons assembles a diverse cast of B-Boy characters from Senegal, Algeria/France, Japan, and the United States; illustrating the diffusion of hip-hop to remote locations and how reinterpretations of this 70s Bronx expression have evolved and progressed. He gives his characters the freedom to turn it loose: to speak their truths and reveal their vulnerabilities – a rare depiction of hip-hoppers who are too often only portrayed as macho posers, youth invested in hyper-masculinity and not much else.

Courtesy of the British Council

CAPE TOWN V&A: SAT 14 / 8.15pm SAT 21 / 8.30pm SAT 28 / 6pm +Q&A


Unmistaken Child

DIR: Nati Baratz / Israel / 2008 / 104min

Unmistaken Child delivers a fascinating insight into an obscure and often misunderstood aspect of Buddhist belief, that of reincarnation. The film’s brilliance, though, lies in a presentation of an abiding religious faith that demands selflessness, and the growth of the faith in self. The young monk Tenzin Zopa is distraught. The venerated Geshe Lama Konchong, whom he has served since he was seven, dies. Tenzin is honoured, shocked and terrified when the Dalai Lama gives him the daunting task of locating Lama Konchong’s reincarnated being. The clues to the unmistaken child’s whereabouts are scant: a boy of between 12 and 18 months who lives in the valley below the Lama’s old retreat. To be truly regarded as the Lama, once found, the child must recognise his, Konchong’s, rosary, bell and hand drum; and his parents must be prepared to give him up. Requiring a suspension of disbelief, yet surprisingly present, this gentle, moving film calmly follows Tenzin’s inner struggle from blind devotee to seeker to leader and ultimately to teacher as he journeys from the deepest of valleys to the highest of Nepalese temples.

CAPE TOWN LABIA: FRI 20 / 8.30pm
  V&A: SUN 29 / 6pm



DIR: Erik Gandini / Sweden / Denmark / UK / Finland / 2009 / 85min

Until recently, Italy was the epitome of cool. Now it’s a nation of celebrity-obsessed wannabes, addicted to cheap TV game shows and talent contests in which naked women are the main attraction. Gandini’s film places the blame squarely on the expensively dressed shoulders of one man: Silvio Berlusconi, media magnate and current Italian prime minister. Berlusconi began his career as the host of a strip TV quiz show and now owns or controls 90% of the country’s TV stations. Videocracy skips over Berlusconi’s political career and personal troubles to concentrate on the culture he has created and the deeply strange people who feed its desires. Gandini has managed to gain remarkable access to the big man’s inner circle, shining an unaccustomed spotlight on the corruption and amorality behind the public razzmatazz.

Courtesy of Swedish Film Institute and the British Council

Sheffield International Documentary Festival 2009 Special Jury Award

CAPE TOWN LABIA: FRI 13 / 6.30pm
  V&A: WED 25 / 6.45pm SAT 28 / 6.15pm
JOBURG   THU 19 / 8.30pm


Winnebago Man

DIR: Ben Steinbauer / USA / 2009 / 87min

When outtakes from a 20-year-old sales video for Winnebago autohomes made it onto YouTube, the presenter, Jack Rebney, became an unwitting internet sensation. Dubbed “the angriest man in the world”, Rebney’s hilarious, expletive-drenched outbursts have been downloaded by millions and widely quoted in Hollywood movies and TV shows. But who the man was and what happened to him remained a mystery. Filmmaker Steinbauer was intrigued enough to track Rebney to his isolated mountain cabin where he finds the 80-year-old as angry as ever, but also intelligent, humane and immensely engaging. Initially ambivalent about Steinbauer’s intrusion and rudely dismissive of the entire YouTube generation, the grumpy old man finally agrees to meet his young fans face to face. The resulting interaction provides a moving and memorable climax to an extremely entertaining film.

CineVegas IFF 2009 Audience Award
Edmonton IFF 2009 Grand Jury Award
Sarasota FF 2009 Jury Prize

CAPE TOWN V&A: FRI 13 / 6.45pm SAT 28 / 8.15pm FRI 20 / 8.15pm
JOBURG   SAT 28 / 8.30pm