Mention the words “film festival” and most people’s minds instinctively jump to Cannes, South by Southwest and Sundance. In reality, there are thousands of film festivals worldwide and at least a handful in our own country. The South African film industry is relatively young and quickly gaining momentum, yet every year film festivals all over the nation receive a somewhat quiet reception. Unless one of our films goes as far as being nominated for, or even winning, a prestigious accolade such as an Academy Award, we never really hear much about it. This attitude has led to the underestimation of local cinema and threatens to slow the progress our thriving industry is making. Here are three of the biggest film festivals taking place in the country this year.

Tri-Continental Film Festival (

The Tri-Continental Film Festival has been around for nine years and is usually held towards the end of the year in cinemas in all the major cities in South Africa. It showcases feature films as well as documentaries from Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Central and South America. Entries are encouraged to have meaningful themes that are intimately related to their country.

The festival is a way of addressing anything from poverty to human rights across the globe in artistic and creative ways that can still raise awareness and paint a realistic picture of the times we live in.

Out In Africa Gay and Lesbian Film Festival (

This film festival is as old as freedom itself, which is quite appropriate considering its sometimes heavy and controversial content. Running since 1994, the Out In Africa Film Festival presents both local and international movies and short films that expose the realities of the often misunderstood homosexual community. This year, the festival will run in three cycles throughout the year beginning in April, then in August and finally in October.

The festival takes place in Johannesburg and Cape Town, and at a number of satellite cinemas all over the country in order for it to be accessible to everyone interested. It has been praised for its bravery in providing a platform for harder hitting stories that aren’t as readily welcomed by the general public. Issues that have been covered in the past range from homosexuality in countries where it is punishable by death to living with the stigmatised condition of homosexuality.

Durban International Film Festival (

Now in its 32nd year, the Durban International Film Festival is the oldest and largest film festival in the country. It has the widest variety of film entrants in South Africa, most of which are locally-produced movies and documentaries. It is staged every year around July in various cinemas in Durban. Part of the festival’s mission is to realise the potential of South African filmmakers and draw attention to the country’s talent.

The festival also has screenings in townships, where there are no cinemas, as a way of inspiring some of the disadvantaged youth who might want to form part of our film industry one day. Training programmes and workshops are also provided to university students. Screening a movie at the Durban International Film Festival has become an esteemed feat for any local movie producer and it has become a launch pad for many home-grown actors’ careers.

Photo: JP Nathrass

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