The Durban International Film Festival announced its award-winners at the closing ceremony of the festival’s 37th edition at the Playhouse on June 25, prior to the screening of the closing film, The Space in Between.
The award for the best feature film went to The Violin Player directed by Bauddhayan Mukherji. The jury’s citation said: “A seductive and mysterious tale of a violin player’s mundane life and an interesting take on how chance encounters are almost predestined.
“By successfully weaving offbeat editing, brave cinematography, simple screenplay, honest direction and a lot of surprising elements, the film shows us that art, no matter how unimportant it may seem, can change peoples lives.”
The award for best South African feature film went to Tess (a 2013 Durban FilmMart project), directed by Meg Rickards, which the jury described as “a measured and uncompromising debut feature.”
“We were so excited to premiere Tess at DIFF and have been overwhelmed by the level of excitement that the film has generated at the festival this year,” says Rickards.
Tess is based on Tracey Farren’s award-winning novel Whiplash and stars Christia Visser, Nollywood actress Nse Ikpe-Etim with Brendon Daniels, Lee-Ann van Rooi, Quanita Adams, Dann-Jacques Mouton, Amanda Lane, Warrick Grier, Oscar Peterson, Mark Elderkin and Greg Kriek.
The film is being distributed locally by Times Media Films and goes on general release in 2017.
The best documentary award went to Martha and Niki directed by Tora Mkandawire Martens, which the jury describes as “visual feast that skillfully intertwines a profound reflection on (an) art form with the inner journey of two compelling characters.”
The jury made a special mention of Action Commandante, also a former Durban FilmMart project, by Nadine Cloete, for “its exceptional quality and commitment to its subject matter.”
The best SA documentary went to The Journeymen, directed by Sean Metelerkamp. The citation from the jurors said: “The Journeymen takes an unflinching look at who we are by holding up the proverbial mirror to South African society. The honesty, bravery and commitment of the film crew results in a mosaic picture of our country with warts and all. This is strong and uncompromising cinema that is simultaneously disturbing and life-affirming.”
Best short film went to Grandma’s Day (Dzie’n Babci) directed by Milosz Sakowski. The jury also made special mention in this category of the film Ave Maria directed by Basil Khalil.
The best African short film award, which is supported by the Gauteng Film Commission, went to New Eyes directed by Hiwot Admasu. eKhaya (Home), directed by Shubham Mehta won the best South African short film award, which is also supported by the Gauteng Film Commission. The shorts jury also made special mention of two other films in this category – Amagugu directed by Ndududo Shandu and Discovery of Fire directed by Gerhard Pretorius.
The best actor award went to Mohsen Namjoo for his performance in Radio Dream, directed by Babak Jalali. The award for best actress went to Christia Visser for her role as Tess in Tess directed by Meg Rickards.
“Christia Visser is an utter revelation in the film,” says producer Paul Egan. “She is an exceptional talent and I think this award was well deserved and certainly suggests that this is just the beginning for this incredible 23-year old”.
Rickards also praised Visser saying: “She showed enormous courage in taking on this role, which she played with empathy and integrity. We were blessed to have a remarkable team both behind and in front of the camera, who gave everything to tell what is a tough and uneasy story.”
The awards for best direction went to Ciro Guerra for Embrace Of The Serpent, best cinematography to Chris Lotz for The Endless River and best screenplay to Ciro Guerra and Thoedor Koch-Grunberg for Embrace of The Serpent.
A new award, for best editing , sponsored by SAGE (South Africa Guild of Editors), went to to Tess which was edited by Linda Man. The award for artistic bravery was given to Neon Bull directed by Gabriel Mascaro for its unique portrayal of a little-known community of Brazilian rodeo workers.
The Amnesty International Durban Human Rights Award for the film that best reflects human rights issues which comes with a cash prize donated by the Artists for the Human Rights Trust went to Noma, directed by Pablo Pineda.
The international jury this year was made up of four jurors: Bianca Balbuena, an award-wining producer from the Philippines: Fibby Kioria, the programme director of Maisha Foundation, an initiative founded by Mira Nair to empower visionary filmmakers in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda: Sherif Awad a film critic who currently works for the Luxor African Film Festival; and Trevor Steele Taylor a veteran of festivals in South Africa, having programmed for the Cape Town International Film Festival, the Weekly Mail & Guardian Film Festival and DIFF and is the curator for film the National Arts Festival.
The South African feature film jury consisted of filmmakers Jahmil Qubeka and Melissa Parry while the documentary jurors were filmmakers Rehad Desai, Omelga Mthiyane and Riaan Hendricks, and the short film jurors were filmmakers Neil Coppen and Sumayya Rawat.
The Amnesty Jury consisted of Coral Vinsen, Nonhlanha Mkhize, Betty Rawheath and Mark Povall.
The audience choice awards for DIFF and for the Wavescape Film Festival will be announced on June 27.