Cinema SA film lacking

SA film lacking

In an opinion piece for Cue, Sihle Mthembu wrote that there was little attention given to recent South African cinema. Mthembu said that the lack of focus on the film programme is a direct result of the fact that there is no Standard Bank Young Artist of the Year Award given for film in 2015.

Responding to the article,  film festival curator Trevor Steele Taylor said that the reason for this is simple: there is simply no filmmaker under 35 years old worthy of the title.

Taylor has been curating the festival since 1999 and has only found four filmmakers that had great individual talent: Dumisani Phakathi, Akin Omotoso, Claire Angelique and Jahmil XT Qubeka.

He says that while the talent might be there, it appears to be hiding itself making economically-friendly films. The South African film industry is small and constantly battling to find funding, and it is therefore sometimes easier to make something entertaining.

In Mthembu’s article, it was suggested that the film curator should be looking at more recent South African films. “Unfortunately for me I do look at a lot of the new South African films that are coming out,” he said, “And I don’t see much that transcends the borderland of essentially mainstream American influence”. For him the recent South African film Hard to Get is the biggest example of this, and Taylor is not afraid to express his distaste at the hyper-violence as well as idolisation of gangsterism.

“It’s almost a lip-smacking enjoyment in showing these guys in their absolute and total brutality,” he says. It’s not about being critical, its about the shock value, Taylor explains.

“I think that the challenges always are trying to get people into film programmes that are maybe more challenging and less entertainment-centred than a lot of Festival as a whole has become,” he says.  Taylor argues that it is Think!fest and the film festival that are really are aiming to spark debate.

Attempting to provoke deeper thinking is admirable but it does not appear to be profitable. “Disappointingly I’ve seen an incredible drop-off in audiences for the film programme this year and it’s something that I’m having to do a lot of soul searching and thinking about as to what is wrong,” he said.

Wynona Latham

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