BANFF Mountain Film Festival 2016

The Banff Mountain Film World Tour 2016 is screening in South Africa from 21 to 29 October 2016. Presented by Cape Union Mart, and sponsored by Deuter, LED Lenser, GoPro and K-Way, this festival of mountain culture screens at selected Ster Kinekors around South Africa. For more information and to buy tickets check out

View the trailer here:

Chess Prodigy is Queen of Katwe

Queen of Katwe is a Disney film directed by Mira Nair and based on a true story. The “Disney” logo at the beginning of the film conjured up for me images of a sentimental, happy-ending movie that might potentially slant the “truth” to satisfy its western audience. Well, I certainly did shed some tears. And I felt happy afterwards. And, yes, I am a western audience. But I also think Mira Nair did well to bring to the screen this small, true story about, of all things, the pleasures of chess.


Madina Nalwanga as Phiona Mutesi in the unusual Disney film. Image source:

Queen of Katwe revolves around a struggling family in Uganda, a man who works as mentor to underprivileged children, and the surprising rise of one young girl to chess prodigy. Phiona Mutesi (Madina Nalwanga) and her siblings struggle to survive in the Ugandan city of Katwe. Their mother (Lupita Nyong’o) is a hard-working, no-nonsense, principled woman who teaches her children responsibility and self-pride in the face of great hardship. While selling corn on the chaotic streets of Katwe one day, Phiona follows some other children to a room where “coach” Robert Katende (David Oyelowo) is teaching chess. Poorer than even the poor children in the room, Phiona has no education and yet takes to the game with a natural talent.

The strategies and thought processes that go into the game of chess become a picture in the film for how the players should deal with life. And vice versa; coach Katende actually uses his pupils’ difficult lives to spur them on at play. Coach himself sacrifices his own career as an engineer to mentor the children. This aspect of the story certainly seems credible if the notes and appearance of the real characters at the end of the film are anything to go by.

Lupita Nyong’o is particularly good in her role as mother and some of the children’s parts are delightful to watch. A drawback to the film is its use of the English language with “Ugandan” accents. If it had been filmed in a local language with English subtitles I think it would have seemed more authentic and reached the right audience. Despite this, I enjoyed the unique chess aspect of Queen of Katwe, and how it became an unusual highlight in the lives of struggling people.

Queen of Katwe, which was filmed in South Africa, opens in SA at Ster Kinekor theatres on 14 October 2016.

André Rieu’s 2016 Maastricht Concert is a Real Must

André Rieu’s 2016 Maastricht Concert is a real must for classical music lovers. Make sure you see this uplifting concert this weekend at Cinema Nouveau in SA. It’s full of songs you’ll recognise and sing along to. The setting in Maastricht, Holland, is lovely to see, orchestra members show some character outside of their instruments, and footage of the audience is suitably romantic and happy. The three hours (which includes a 15-minute interval) of CinemaLive’s presentation will simply fly. I loved it.



maastricht-1André Rieu’s 2016 Maastricht Concert is on at Cinema Nouveau countrywide on 15 October at 7.45pm and 16 October at 2.30pm.

To view the trailer, click here:

For booking information visit Or contact Ticketline on 0861 Movies (668 437).


Miss Peregrine is Scary and Clever

This children’s movie, which opened in South Africa on Friday 7 October, carries an age restriction of 10. Parents should consider this a good guideline as younger children would certainly be frightened of the story’s long-legged monsters that pluck out people’s eyes, most especially those of children…

Age 10 to early teens is also a suitable-enough age to understand the intricacies and setting of this tale. The adventure revolves around Jake (Asa Butterfield) who is an awkward, modern-day teenager without friends. Jake is quite attached to his grandad (Terence Stamp) who tells him fascinating, true “bedtime” stories. When Jake’s grandad is murdered under mysterious circumstances the old man manages to pass on to the boy an important message before he breathes his last. Jake, accompanied by his unbelieving dad (Chris O’Dowd), travels from Florida to Wales, to try and fathom the cryptic message’s meaning. What follows is an enthralling account of time-travel, children endowed with peculiar, yet special, gifts, and a carer called Miss Peregrine (Eva Green) who keeps her wards safe in a time loop. Jake is welcomed into the crowd of odd children because he, too, has a peculiar and indispensable gift, one he uses to protect the children later in the story. The villain presents himself as Barron (a glassy-eyed Samuel L. Jackson) who seeks immortality through slurping up eyeballs.

I think young viewers may not relate to the World War II setting (Miss Peregrine and her children are stuck in a time loop in Wales that dates back to 1943). Also, some of the action, especially in the beginning, is a little dull. Things improve, though, as the story progresses. Messages of acceptance, the value of loyalty, and finding one’s place in the world come through easily enough. And the cleverness of this child-led story will certainly captivate some imaginative young viewers.

The film is being screened in 2D and 3D.


Labyrinth of Lies is more than a story of history

A few years ago I visited Dachau Concentration Camp in Germany. My husband and I travelled just 32-odd kilometres to get there from Munich. I remember walking back into the small town after the English tour. Only a few hundred metres down the road we turned a corner and bright, summery shrubbery obscured the site of many deaths from view. I think this is what it was like for many Germans during WWII. An extermination camp operated, mere kilometres from where ordinary Germans lived. And residents either chose to ignore its existence or were unaware of it.


Alexander Fehling in the subtly and brilliantly acted Labyrinth of Lies. Image source:

Decades later of course the world has enough information about what went on in these camps to be appalled. Perpetrators have been prosecuted. Camps like Dachau have been made into museums so that we can’t escape history. But it wasn’t always like this. The film Labyrinth of Lies makes that clear. Set in Frankfurt less than two decades after the war viewers of this movie are confronted with a Germany of silence. Victims hesitant to speak up. Nazis living and working as bakers, mechanics, teachers in towns alongside their victims, not revealing what they did. Officials unwilling to share what they knew. Finding the criminals was a mission, exacerbated by laws for their prosecution that didn’t yet exist, and reams and reams of paperwork and red tape.

One young prosecutor, instilled with a sense of justice, “stumbles” across a victim, and a journalist passionate to tell the truth. And so together they begin what would lead to the first large trial in Germany of SS officers who were responsible for the deaths of thousands in Auschwitz. Alexander Fehling as the prosecutor Johann Radmann is outstanding in his role. Subtleties of facial expression and body language reveal more than words as the actor moves his character from ignorance, through duty then horror, to passion, despair and determination.

Labyrinth of Lies is more than a film about history. It reveals the human heart and poses the question that, had we been in the position of those Nazi officers, would we have behaved any differently?

Labyrinth of Lies is in German with English subtitles. It opened at Ster Kinekor Cinema Nouveau in South Africa on Friday 30 September 2016.

The Magnificent Seven is Fun to Watch

Take heart. Life today is a picnic compared with that of the 1850s Wild West. Conditions then were much harder than they are in any modern, crime-ridden country today. The Wild West was a dusty, lawless place where people were killed daily by guns. “Protected” by ineffectual sheriffs, townspeople in those parts were forced to take the law into their own hands to protect themselves. Only after many bodies and an impressive supply of ammunition did the goodies stagger to a triumph.

The Magnificent Seven (a 2016 remake of the 1960 original of the same name) follows this typical Western formula. Right down to the stirring background music, saloon scenes and main-street duels, this modern movie delivers plenty reminders of Westerns of long ago. The triumph of good over evil, high jinks, humour, and avenging the death of loved ones makes the viewer forgive the film’s violence and unbelievability.

The Magnificent 7. Photo supplied by: Ster Kinekor

The Magnificent 7. Photo supplied by: Ster Kinekor

Chisolm (Denzel Washington), the main goody avenger, is hired by widowed Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) – the only woman in Rose Creek with balls – to chase out the bandits who have taken over their mining rich town. Chisolm, with great street smarts, gathers himself six other men, promising them payment to help him in the defence of Rose Creek. The bunch is an unlikely “magnificent”. Billy Rocks (Vincent D’Onofrio) is a bear-like man with a high-pitched voice and a penchant for praying over his victims. The rest are made up of a red Indian, a Mexican, a gambler, an Eastern knife fighter (who kills victims with anything sharp, including a hair pin) and a war veteran struggling with PTSD. But they’re all fantastic with weapons.

Denzel Washington is characteristically stylish, and the action, which includes dynamite explosions and great horsemanship is exciting and fun to watch. There is no swearing or sex in The Magnificent Seven. Just lots of good-old sharp shooting. Lovely family viewing (if you’re over 16).

The Magnificent Seven opens at Ster Kinekor theatres countrywide in South Africa on 23 September 2016.


The Snow Goose Shows Human Nature

I attended the 2016 Hilton Arts Festival in the KZN midlands on a very rainy and cold Sunday, the 18th of September. I felt sorry for the brave stall holders sitting under their flimsy shelters in the miserable weather. Conditions definitely detracted from our enjoyment of the day and no doubt from the crafters’ takings. Indoor art galleries and a bustling food tent with free live music were the more cheery choices for how to spend free time.

While I wasn’t shivering in a tent, I watched three foreign-based plays: The Snow Goose, Tarty Flowers and Blonde Poison. It was a pity I couldn’t enjoy something snow-goose-free-to-usemusical; I had misunderstood the booking system by not reserving tickets even for “free” shows so missed out on Two Guitars, featuring James Grace and Jonathan Crossley. I’ll remember for next time.

The best show of the day was the beautifully scripted, extremely well-acted The Snow Goose. The story is set in England during World War II. It makes a sensitive comment on society’s cruel, and often stupid, vilification of those who are different, and on the stranger who longs to be accepted and useful. Whilst the actors in Tarty Flowers coped well with an unplanned electricity failure during their performance, the story, which seemed to move backwards, lacked a certain crispness of delivery. This meant that some of the cleverness of the show’s inspiration, Fawlty Towers, was lost. Fiona Ramsay gave a 60-minute solo performance in the aptly named Blonde Poison. This play featured a German Jewish woman relating to a journalist the story of how she had ratted on her fellow Jews in Nazi Germany, escaping arrest herself through bribery and her Aryan looks. The play was surprising on so many levels for me: from the energy required for such a lengthy solo performance, to the tale of treachery amongst Jews themselves, to realising what the name “Blonde Poison” really referred to. Ramsay was visibly moved at the end of this demanding performance and deserved her standing ovation.