As the Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) gears up for its 40th edition, eight programmers have been working tirelessly for four months to consolidate a strong programme for this major milestone in the history of film on the continent.
DIFF, organised by the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Centre for Creative Arts, takes place this year from 18 to 28 July in venues around Durban, South Africa. It takes the record of being one of the oldest and largest festivals in Africa, presenting over 150 films, while also offering workshops, industry seminars, discussion forums and outreach activities that include screenings in townships areas, where cinemas are non-existent.
“In celebration of 40 years of DIFF, we are proud to reveal our strong line-up of programmers,” says DIFF Manager Chipo Zhou. “Our features panel includes Tsitsi Dangaremba (Zimbabwe), Gabrielle Kelly (USA), and Peter Machen (SA/Germany), the documentaries panel is made up of Theresa Hill (South Africa) and Nataleah Hunter-Young (Canada); while the shorts panel comprises Lisa Ogdie (USA), Fibby Kioria (Uganda) and Chioma Onyenwe (Nigeria).”
“The role of the programmers is vital in the shaping of a festival, and we are very excited to be working with such internationally-acclaimed and recognised individuals, representing a diverse range of expertise and interests. Their task, to select 150 films from an incredible 12300 entries to this year’s festival, was a formidable challenge, and we are most grateful to them. We had, as part of the DIFF extended family, 60 reviewers from around the globe to support them, and we look forward to locking down the programme over the next few weeks, and delivering a festival befitting its “fabulously fortieth” year.”
Zimbabwean playwright, poet, activist and award-winning novelist and filmmaker, Tsitsi Dangaremba, has produced several documentaries and short short films, and has credits on most of Zimbabwe’s feature film classics. Her award-winning short film Kare Kare Zvako (Mother’s Day, 2005) was screened at the Sundance Film Festival.
Theresa Hill, with 20 years of experience working in the documentary industry, is responsible for acquisitions, programming, marketing and planning for the online platform AfriDocs, and is also board member of the Ladima Foundation, a Pan-African non-profit organisation which aims to contribute to correcting the major imbalances within the industry.
Well-known writer and critic, former manager of the Durban International Film Festival, and long-time programmer of the fest, Peter Machen, who is currently based in Berlin, makes a welcome return to the programming fold. Peter heads the media cooperative The Communication Factory and works for a plant-based advocacy organisation, and continues to write and reviews films on a number of platforms.
Nataleah Hunter-Young is a film programmer, media artist, and doctoral student in Communication and Culture at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada. She has experience in supporting the programming for the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival, as well as the Durban International Film Festival.
Lisa Ogdie is a shorts programmer for the Sundance Film Festival and also Membership and Talent Development Manager for BAFTA Los Angeles. She has been part of the Sundance shorts programming team since 2009, selecting the Sundance short film slate from over 9,000 submissions, and has moderated Q&A discussions and panels for BAFTA Los Angeles, Sundance, Toronto Film Festival and the American Pavilion at Cannes.
Screenwriter/Producer Gabrielle Kelly is on the Faculty of the American Film Institute Conservatory in Los Angeles, with expertise and a passion for global storytelling, particularly in Asia. She has mentored labs and screenwriting masterclasses around the world, programmed, judged and created film festivals from Guam to Azerbaijan and is an expert on Media Labs and international story development for screens and pages. She worked with New York director Sidney Lumet and in Hollywood with numerous directors, writers and producers. As well as running producer Robert Evan’s company at Paramount for several years, she has also worked at HBO, CBS Films, Eddie Murphy Productions and Warner Bros.
Fibby Kioria is a Programme Director of Maisha Film Lab, a leadership development organization founded by Mira Nair to empower visionary filmmakers in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda by giving them the tools to tell their own stories through film. She was the Line Producer on the Mira Nair and Zippy Kimundu short documentary portrait of Robert Katende, A Fork, a Spoon & a Knight. She went on to produce the music video for the song ‘# 1 Spice’ from Disney’s Queen of Katwesoundtrack. She is also an Associate Producer at Afro Films International.
Nigerian filmmaker, Chioma Onyenwe has a background in economics and management from University of Lagos and Imperial College London. She plunged into fulltime film-making in 2014. She is the Programme Director for the Africa International Film Festival. Her first feature 8 Bars and a Clef, was nominated for the 2016 AMAA Award for Best First Feature Film.