Out In Africa (OIA), South Africa’s best attended film festival, (over 18,500 through the doors in 2005) is again set to enliven the social and cultural lives of professional homosexuals in Cape Town and Joburg.
It’s the 12th incarnation of this annual highlight, and it promises to bring us some of the most controversial and thrilling international lesbian and gay film out there.
Sharon Jackson, Deputy Director of the festival, says that, “We screen the best of what’s on at festivals around the world and we try to cater to everyone’s tastes. And that’s quite a challenge!”
There will be 92 screenings in both Joburg and Cape Town, comprising of 34 features, and some 26 short films – among them seven South African titles. Other films hail from France, the UK, Germany, Finland, the US, Peru, Norway and Sweden, Switzerland, Israel, Canada, Scotland and Spain. A testament that “we are everywhere” indeed!
When asked if the slate of films is a snapshot of the state of international queer filmmaking, Jackson comments that, “it’s becoming increasingly mature. The films are less obviously political and didactic and are more about the stories. Sometimes it just happens that one of the characters is gay”.
She also notes that this year has been a watershed for gay film, what with the mainstream success of films like Brokeback Mountain, which the festival will be premiering on its opening night in Johannesburg before it opens on a wider release the next day. “It’s also a little frustrating that we can’t keep these films just for our festival”, she adds with a laugh.
The TI Factor
This year’s festival will have a particular focus on Transexual and Intersex (TI) issues and themes. Of the 34 features on the festival, four films deal directly with TI concerns. These are: Both, 100% Human, Call Me Malcolm and Funny Kinda Guy. Two other films feature gender-benders: The Aggressives and Mother Nature (Mater Natura).
“It’s such a sensitive issue and there’s not a lot of understanding out there on intersexed and trans-gendered people. We really want to create debate on the subject”, says Jackson. In keeping with that aim, there will be panel discussions in both Johannesburg and Cape Town after some of the screenings. OIA has worked closely with Gender DynamiX convenor, Liesl Theron, in bringing together the panelists.
Two years ago the festival screened Trembling before G-d, which caused a stir in the Jewish community around the country. Out In Africa has the opportunity to generate more discussion with the Israeli film Keep Not Silent; about Orthodox Jewish lesbians and how they conduct their relationships within a faith that does not condone their sexuality. There will be panel discussions in both Johannesburg and Cape Town and OIA has worked closely with Jewish Outlook, the South African Jewish LGBTI organisation.
Funded by the Conference Workshop and Cultural Initiative Fund (CWCI), Out In Africa has 3,000 complimentary tickets to give away. These are intended specifically for LGBTI people who have not had the opportunity to attend the festival before. Transport will be laid on to bring people from Soweto, Vosloorus, Alexandra, Daveyton, Atteridgeville, Eldorado Park, Westbury, Sebokeng. Katlehong, Thembisa, and Mamelodi in Gauteng, and Mitchell’s Plain, Athlone, Gugulethu, Nyanga, Langa, Crossroads, Phillipi, Bonteheuwel and Khayelitsha in the Cape, to the cinemas. Taxis will return individuals to their doorsteps. To take advantage of this initiative, individuals should contact Nhlanhla in the OIA office in Johannesburg on 011 880 0995, and Debbie Bond in Cape Town (after 16 February) on 021 461 4027.
As is traditional, the festival has arranged for a group of guest filmmakers to visit the country. These include: Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau (Cockles & Muscles); Patrik-Ian Polk (Noah’s Arc); Michael Gallant (10 Attitudes); Jason Stuart (actor – 10 Attitudes); Karen Everett (Women in Love); Charled Lum (short film focus) and Kristian Petersen (short film focus). In conjunction with tertiary institutions and film schools in Johannesburg and Cape Town, OIA has organised a number of master-classes and seminars conducted by the Festival guests.
OIA Film Productions
Out In Africa is committed to fostering Queer Filmmaking in South Africa and, to that end, has run three successful workshops over the years, resulting in 16 completed films of varying lengths, which have featured at international film festivals. In November 2005 the Telling Tales workshop, funded by Pro Helvetia Arts Council of Switzerland and OIA, produced three short films, which will be premiered at this year’s festival.
Out in Africa runs in Joburg (Rosebank Cinema Nouveau) from 9 until 26 March and in Cape Town (V&A Waterfront Cinema Nouveau) from 23 March to 9 April. Look out for film reviews of festival highlights on Mambaonline. To see the full OIA line up, visit the OIA website at www.oia.co.za.