South African Films Participate at the Berlin International Film Festival

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The 65th annual Berlin International Film Festival is scheduled to be held from 5 to 15 February 2015. The festival is the largest public film festival in the world and around 400 films will be shown. Among those films are 7 South African supportedfilms, which will screen in various sections of the film festival.

Breathe Umphefumlo will appear in theOut Of Competition section at the Berlin Film Festival.The film transports Giacomo Puccini’s opera La Boheme to contemporary South Africa and includes songs in Xhosa, one of the official languages of South Africa.The story follows a group of artists, writers and actors struggling to survive in the township of Khayelitsha, which has high rates of tuberculosis, in common with 19th Century Paris, the original setting of La Boheme.Produced by South Africa’s Advantage Entertainment and Isango Ensemble and the UK’s Film and Music Entertainment (F&ME), the film is written by Dornford-May and stars Pauline Malefane with musical direction by Mandisi Dyantyis.

Coming of Age is a film that followsteenagers over the course of two yearsas they grow up deep in the southernAfrican mountain kingdom of Lesotho.Very little happens in the village of HaSekake, but from their perspective, a lotis at stake. Lefa, who wears her hearton her sleeve, sees her world fall apartwhen her best friend Senate leaves thevillage. She too must decide whetherto stay or leave in search of a bettereducation and new opportunities.Retabile takes care of the family’s livestockup in a remote cattle post, foreight months of the year. He is helpedby his younger brother Mosaku, whowatches as Retabile goes through a riteof passage that will mark his transitioninto manhood. The summer of youth isquickly over, doors into adulthood openand close. This film will appear in the Generation competition 14plus section and is directed by Teboho Edkins

Joe Bullet, directed by Louis de Witt will form part ofthe 2015 Special Screenings. The 1973 gangster film isinspired in equal measure by the black pop culture of the time and the American Blaxploitation genre. Louis de Witt’s action-packed film about a manipulated cup final was one of the first to be shot with an all-black cast. Joe Bulletoffered its audiences a vision of life that did not correspond to the reality of most black South Africans under Apartheid. Although the film was not overtly political, it was swiftly banned and not screened for an extended period of time. Now this unique work has been restored and can be shown once again. The film stars Ken Gampu, Joe Lopez and Abigail Kubeka.

Necktie Youth will feature in the Panaroma section of the festival and chronicles a day in the life of best friends Jabz and September, two hyper-Americanised Zulu boys, as they go on a drug-fuelled joyride through Joburg’s affluent suburbs. The film is directed by Sibs Shongwe-La Mer and stars; Bonko Cosmo, Sibs Shongwe-La Mer, Colleen Balchin, Kamogelo Moloi, Emma Tollman, Jonathan Young, Giovanna Winetzki, Ricci-Lee Kalish and Michael Hall.

Umbangois scheduled to feature in the 2015 Special Screenings section. Until the end of the Apartheid era, state funding was granted to numerous so-called B-Scheme films, which were shot by mainly white producers for black audiences. Umbango, directed by Tonie van der Merwe, is one of the few Westerns still in existence from this period, a typical Wild West story about the battle between good and evil. With the exception of one solitary gringo (who is shot dead at the very beginning), this hugely entertaining film was also shot with an entirely black cast. The film stars Popo Gumede and Hector Mathanda.

Abaabi ba boda boda is a film between Uganda, South Africa, Kenya and Germany. Life in Kampala today could be pretty OK for Abel, if he weren’t a young man without prospects, with a father who drives a boda boda and keeps urging him to make start making a living for himself. Boda bodas (from “border-to-border”) are motorcycle taxis sometimes also used to carry goods. Abel is a young drifter whose existence is put to the test when an accident stops his father from being able to drive. All of a sudden, he gains full access to this freedom-representing vehicle. It’s a fantastic opportunity for him to escape his life’s predetermined plot, but it’s not without risk. There are professionals in the city whose specialty it is to snatch handbags – and get away on their boda bodas. Plenty of money can be made from tourists and halfwits. By paying suitable tribute to Vittorio De Sica’s Ladri di biciclette, Yes! That's Us succeeds in making a neorealist urban portrait of Kampala brought right up to date with Ugandan music, locations and actors. Abaabi ba boda boda is a wonderful take on a European classic from a young, African perspective.

Black President by Mpumelelo Mcata is a Zimbabwe, South Africa and United Kingdomsupported film. Mcata allows artist Kudzanai Chiurai to flee into a whole other realm following various fractious experiences in the art scene.

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