CONTROVERSY OVER DIFF OPENING
Written by: Xolisani Khumalo
The Durban International Film Festival’s (DIFF) Manager Sarah Dawson resigned from her position after controversy over festival’s opening night film.
Dawson’s resignation was over a story alleged to have originated in Durban, titled Shepherds and Butchers, a documentary directed by Oliver Schmitz and produced by Anant Singh.
In her resignation statement, Dawson argued that her decision not to screen the film on opening night was in consideration of those professionally compelled to be present on the night and who might have been unprepared for a depiction of violence on black people. She also added that the decision not to screen the film on opening day was not to deny the public the opportunity to see the film.
“I had offered the producers a gala screening to do the merits of the film justice,” said Dawson.
Anant Singh, producer of the film, argued that Dawson’s reasoning did not make sense and it is insulting to their ability to tell stories.
“The Durban International Film Festival has in the past opened with films that are far more graphic and controversial and importantly, all these films had artistic merit. We have had films like Once Were Warriors, that dealt with issues of family violence, rape etc,” said Singh.
Dawson had contended that Shepherds and Butchers was “unilaterally confirmed” as the opening film by the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Deputy Vice Chancellor of Humanities‚ Professor Cheryl Potgieter.
“This decision was made without consultation with either myself or any member of the advisory panel, and without Potgieter having seen any of the other films that existed as possibilities for selection for this occasion, nor, as far as I am aware, has she even seen the film in question,” said Dawson in her statement.
DIFF’s newly elected leadership have pulled Shepherds and Butchers from being the opening film. Festival’s director, Peter Machen announced the opening film to be the Journeymen, a documentary about three photographers that travel around South Africa in a motor home whilst capturing events using Gopros strapped to their chests.
Peter told TMG Digital that the film is inclusive and democratic.
“It talks to all South Africans and is a particularly appropriate movie to be screened on Youth Day June 16,” he added.
*Picture: A Durban International Film Festival poster alongside Glenwood road.