Film festival views a fascinating, complex South Africa

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      David Chudnovsky’s inspiration to bring a festival showcasing South African films to Vancouver grew out of two misconceptions. The first is that South Africa is an especially dangerous place. The second is that former president and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Nelson Mandela is a saint.

      “Neither of those things are true,” he said in a telephone interview. Chudnovsky, a former MLA and retired teacher, noted that South Africa is safe to travel and that Mandela is a human being. “Which makes his achievements all the more amazing,” he added.

      “South Africa is a very complex society with an amazing abundance of cultures and a tremendously inspiring history and fascinating politics,” Chudnovsky continued. “That is my motivation for the festival: to try and help explain some of that complexity and diversity.”

      Now in its third year, the Vancouver South African Film Festival will present ten films this Saturday and Sunday (April 13 and 14) at the Djavad Mowafaghian Cinema in the Goldcorp Centre for the Arts (SFU Woodward’s, at 149 West Hastings Street). Proceeds will go to Education without Borders, a not-for-profit organization that provides educational opportunities in disadvantaged South African communities.

      On the phone from Los Angeles, Sibusiso Xaba, director general for South Africa’s Department of Arts and Culture, told the Georgia Straight that the VSAFF is the only festival in North America dedicated to South African movies.

      “It promotes South Africa as a filmmaking destination,” he said. “We’ve got the capacity, we’ve got the skills, we’ve got the infrastructure to make good movies, and we are open for business.”

      Xaba added that that he’s particularly excited about Little One, a dramatic feature that will receive its world premiere on the festival’s second night.

      Little One, South Africa’s nominee for this year’s foreign-language Oscar, follows the recovery of a six-year-old girl who was raped and left for dead. It’s a touching drama that’s simultaneously uplifting while often also heartbreaking.

      In a separate telephone call from Los Angeles, Anton Ernst, the film’s producer, said that Little One inspired him to want to be a better person. “You must look after the neighbour’s kids the same way as you look after your own,” he explained. “If everybody takes that approach, things like abuse will not happen.”

      Ernst described the VSAFF as a natural selection for Little One’s official release. “The movie stands for things like hope and love, and the proceeds of the festival go to…a nonprivileged school in the Western Cape in South Africa,” Ernst said. “So it’s a very good fit.”

      The producer will be on hand for his film’s screening at the VSAFF. Other notables scheduled to attend the festival include Membathisi Mdladlana, South Africa’s new high commissioner to Canada, and Nik Rabinowitz, who stars in Material, a comedy about a Muslim family living in South Africa. Material plays at the festival Saturday evening (April 13) and will be followed by a reception featuring South African food.

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