Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and Pretoria will be host to some exciting cinematic productions as part of this year’s European Film Festival. With films addressing topics such as animal rights, family dynamics, experiences of war and heartbreak, audiences will be entertained as well as offered moments of contemplation. Having looked through their diverse programme, we selected four must-see films.
The High Sun directed by Dalibor Matanić addresses feelings of loss, displacement, love and pain caused by the Serbo-Croatian conflict over three decades through the magnifying glass of love. Three love stories played by the same actors at three different moments reveals how love tries to survive across ethnic lines. The first story takes place in pre-war 1991 while fear and hatred grows, with the tension culminating in an unexpected display of violence in reaction to two lovers from opposing sides. We fast forward to 2001 where we are introduced to a moody teenager who returns to her ruined home with her mother. Her mother is determined to rebuild their home with the help of a man from the other side. Unable to let go of the memory of her brother’s death, the hints of romance between the teenager and the builder have little chance to blossom. We fast forward again to 2011, to what appears to be a happier atmosphere, but as the story unfolds we are privy to wounds and heartbreak that have been masked and fermenting for years. With each story taking place during the height of Summer, the sun takes on a symbol of the burning tension between both sides, as well as a container for memories of love and pain.
This documentary directed by Ester Gould and Reijer Zwaan revisits the lives of seven dancers who were part of Madonna’s controversial 1990 tour, Blond Ambition. During the tour and through a documentary about the tour, Madonna made very clear statements about gay rights and the need for more attention to be given to HIV/Aids prevention. Through Strike a Pose we seen how her main group of back up dancers, made of mostly gay men, paid the price for her outspokenness in multiple ways. We see them reflect on their inner battles and secrets they had to keep from each other and the world, as well as their pride from being able to be part of such a powerful tour, both from a musical and social sense. In between conversations with the dancers and their family members, we see snippets of their current lives, and witness moments of pause and reflection through the dance pieces they perform.
Portuguese director Patricia Sequeira allows us to spend a night with five best friends in a spacious secluded home that was owned by their dead friend, Marta.
There is arguing, crying, cooking, eating, drinking, smoking and painful laughter as the friends reopen wounds and share secrets. We feel their ache of growing old as they are learning how to deal with endings.
All seated at the dining table, the friends explain how a female life is a game of checkers, although it may be filled with great joys, a tireless list of burdens is an inevitable part of womanhood.
Sequeira beautifully captures the vulnerability and pain of each character with invasive frames. It is almost as if the audience is an intruder as we learn about the diverse dynamics among them.
Poignant discussions about the changes experienced in lifelong relationships suggest an uncertain future for the group of friends.
Andrea Arnold’s latest film American Honey (2016) captures the carefree recklessness of youth. In the British directors drama road film, we follow the life of a captivating teenage girl named Star (Sasha Lane).
Originally from Texas, the American Honey, Star dumpster dives to sustain the livelihood of two young children who live with her in a troubled home. It is evident that Star longs for a starkly different life. From the minute that she catches a glimpse of Jake’s (Shia LaBeouf) eye, Star sees a hope for her future.
Star ventures into the unknown with a group of wildly fun individuals who are led by a fierce woman named Krystal (Riley Keough). They travel across America’s Midwest to sell an endless list of magazine subscriptions. Star the rookie of the group is paired with veteran and phenomenal salesman, Jake. They naturally make a cosmic connection which is interfered with by curiosity, deception and the misadventures of survival.
Arnold uses intimate frames with vibrant colours, electric characters, clamorous hip-hop, introspective dialogue, flirting and sexual energy which make the mundane plot stimulating. American Honey is a long, messy, organic observation of youthful passion and the pursuit for purpose.