Durban International Film Festival announces opening and closing films

Award-winning film “Sira” is set to open the 2023 Durban International Film Festival. Picture: Supplied

Award-winning film “Sira” is set to open the 2023 Durban International Film Festival. Picture: Supplied

Published Jun 23, 2023


South Africa’s longest-running film festival, the Durban International Film Festival (DIFF), has announced its opening and closing films.

Opening the 44th festival is “Sira”, written and directed by Apolline Traoré.

It follows a young nomad (Nafissatou Cissé) who takes a stand against Islamist terror after she and her family are attacked.

All the men are shot and the leader of the gang, Yéré, takes Sira and rapes her. Left for dead in the desert, Sira finds herself alone and takes refuge in a cave as she weaves her survival plan.

“Sira” had its world premiere at the 73rd Berlin International Film Festival in February and went on to bag the Panorama Audience Award for Best Feature Film. “Sira” was also nominated for the Berlinale Amnesty Film Prize at the Amnesty International Film Awards the same month.

Traoré, who once thought the film “would never see the light of day”, said she was honoured to be opening the prestigious film festival.

“I am so very honoured that my film ‘Sira’ will open the Durban International Film Festival. It’s really a miracle.

“A year ago, during our difficult production we thought the film would never see the light of day. And here we are today, opening one of the greatest film festivals in Africa. It’s a blessing.”

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Closing the festival is a French-Malian-Senegalese romantic drama titled “Banel & Adama”.

“Banel & Adama” has been announced as the DIFF 2023 closing film. Picture: Supplied.

Directed by Senegalese screenwriter Ramata-Toulaye Sy, it premiered, in competition, at the 76th Cannes Film Festival last month.

It tells the story of Banel (Khady Mane) and Adama (Mamadou Diallo) who are fiercely in love.

The young married couple live in a remote village in northern Senegal. For them, nothing else exists. Yet their perfect everlasting love is on a collision course with their community’s customs. Because in this world, there is no room for passion, let alone chaos.

The film is a feisty tale about romance, family relationships and the chaos that ensues when Adama refuses to fulfil his birthright to serve as the village’s future leader.

“At the time I was working on the script, I had the feeling that most of the contemporary African films I was discovering were about violence, war, terrorism, poverty… all in a naturalistic form.

“I wanted to write a great tragic love story; a story in which everyone could recognise themselves,” said Sy.

Explaining why she chose to shoot the film in the Fula language in Fouta-Toro, she said she wanted to capture the place where her parents came from and where she often spent her holidays.

“What interested me in this Fula culture was its people, with their particular physiognomy and known principles: they express their emotions through their gaze and their silence.

“They are a people who are known to be dignified, but above all very proud. What interested me most was to confront a character such as Banel, who is passionate and expressive, with such a community.

“And then, aesthetically, I found it beautiful to make a rather silent film where the dialogues are expressed more by the body and the glances than by speech.”

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DIFF will also showcase an impressive variety of shorts, features, documentaries and student films during its run from July 20 to July 30.

For more information visit Festival tickets are available on