25 July: Day 1
The Weather Girls sing about it's raining men. In Durban it's raining wonderful films and the weather is miserable too in what is normally a balmy sub-tropical city.
I have been planning my viewing schedule since the programme was released a month ago and it constantly changed as there is so much to see and the films are so varied and the must-see ones clash. I try to include the big festival winners - and they are all in Durban. I left the schedule 80% percent completed as it normally falls into place once I arrive. It's like going into a multiplex without knowing what to see and you immediately know when you look at the posters.
My initial shock was the weather! I expected a bit of rain and somewhat cooler temps than normal. I arrived in gale force winds, rain coming down in buckets and temperatures around 15 degres Celsuis. That is arctic conditions for Durban and I was convinced that the weather will have an impact on the festival.
After booking into my hotel, I went to pick up my accreditation from the festival personnel in the Royal Hotel and now my schedule is finalised. The rain eased in the afternoon and nature unleashed its full force when I went to my first screening, the Canadian film The Prosecutor with the director, Barry Stevens, present. He greeted the audience by saying he is surprised that anyone came out in this miserable weather to attend the first screening in Africa. I was sceptical before the film as a film about the International Criminal Court can be tedious. The Prosecutor is not and its controversial prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, is charismatic and an interesting character. I must say I enjoyed the film and told Barry afterwards that he did a great job and that he is lucky that its star is so charismatic! The camera is contantly filming the prosecutor, at his home, in his office, on location and in court. The film has another screening at the Royal Hotel today at 17:00 (SA time).
My second film of the night was a bit disappointing. At Ellen's Age (Im alter von Ellen) by SA-born director Pia Marais tells the story of an air hostess who throws caution to the wind when her boyfriend tells her his other girlfriend is pregnant with his child. She then joins a cult to find some reality in her life. I found the film slow and emotionless. The film has another screening at Suncoast today at 18:00 (SA time).
Getting back to the hotel last night I realised how dependant we are on the weather and that you have to adapt. I am in Durban, the greatest filmfest in the Southern Hemisphere is in full swing and all I want to do is stay in bed in my hotel room while the forces of nature play havoc outside my window. That is not going to happen. After all, water is good for you.
As I am writing this on the morning of Tuesday 26 July it is still raining outside and the maximum temperature expected today is 18 degrees Celsuis. The highlight tonight is the first screening of Nader and Simin, a seperation. This film cleaned up in Berlin and has won many prizes all over the world. It is shown in competition at DIFF. The filmmaker will also be in attendance. The second film Ill be seeing tonight is Dog Sweat, an Iranian film about young Iranians as they struggle to negotiate their private desires in the face of conservative Islamic society.