Plot for Peace, a sobering film about Apartheid

A review by Brenda Daniels

The opening and closing scenes of Plot for Peace are those of Algerian-born Frenchman, Jean-Yves Ollivier, playing cards. Ollivier begins his story by explaining that when Algeria won its independence, three million white people, Ollivier’s family included, were forced to leave that country.

This seemingly affected Ollivier to the extent that when he involved himself in Southern African politics many years later he strove to broker a peace that precluded the fallout of whole groups of people. And so, while Mandela and the ANC within South Africa worked towards the end of Apartheid that would result in the “rainbow nation”, Ollivier, an unrelated and “mysterious Frenchman”, was working outside South Africa with a similar view in mind.

His involvement included brokering communication between six Southern African nations during the war-torn 1980s. Countries that were backed by the USA or communist Russia and involved in wars in Angola, Mozambique and South West Africa.

Plot for Peace is a riveting film. The complicated nature of the material and the French with English subtitles make it fairly difficult to watch. While aspects of Apartheid and our country’s complex past are now common knowledge, Plot for Peace shows the foreign forces that were at play in this confusing game of politics.

I found it enlightening, educational and very, very sobering.

Jean-Yves Ollivier photographed in Oslo. Photo: Johnny Vaet Nordskog

Jean-Yves Ollivier photographed in Oslo. Photo: Johnny Vaet Nordskog

Plot for Peace is the fourth DIFF film I’ve watched since the opening of the festival on 17 July 2014.

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B for Boy has potential for great impact

A review by Brenda Daniels

B for Boy is a Nigerian feature film directed by Chika Anadu. It tells the story of a middle-class, modern couple torn by traditional Igbo customs. Amaka, at 39 years of age, is pregnant with the couple’s second child. Pressure from her husband’s extended family for the unborn child to be a boy begins to build.

In this patriarchal society, continuing the family name through a son is vital. But more than the men, it is the women who exert the influence, and in so doing perpetuate their own position as second rate citizens.

We see modern-minded Amaka beginning to buckle and, with the help of pther circumstances, resorts to devious methods to live up to the expectations of her relatives.

There is no moralising in this story. Anadu is careful to present the characters as multi-layered and human. The film is slow, with many pauses, all of which add to the tension and allow the viewer to think.

B for Boy is a fine work by this first-time director, who also produced the film, doing everything from casting to camera work. Its message to women is an important one. I hope B for Boy makes the impact it should.

B for Boy is the third film I have watched that is screened for the Durban International Film Festival this year. The festival began on 17 July and ends on 27 July.

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The Human Scale, fixing our mistakes

A review by Brenda Daniels

The Human Scale is a documentary that discusses the growth of cities, what that growth has been based on and what city planning should take into account in future.

A number of megacities are featured and compared with each other. Basically, The Human Scale says that modern development has been driven by urbanisation and the motor car. This has resulted in high rise accommodation and an emphasis on roads to the exclusion of pedestrian areas. This has further led to an erosion of people contact and public life.

The crucial element missing from all this development has been the human element – spaces for humans, by humans. Some cities around the world have tried to reverse this trend by changing roads into pedestrian areas and introducing many kilometres of cycle lanes. And in Christchurch, New Zealand, ordinary citizens have been asked for their input on how their earthquake-devastated city should be rebuilt. Interestingly, their comments reflected an emphasis on restricting buildings to six or seven storeys, and emphasis on introducing more green, open areas.

I thought this quote from Things A Little Bird Told Me by Biz Stone aptly sums up the message of The Human Scale:

When they first built the University of California at Irvine they just put the buildings in. They did not put any sidewalks; they just planted grass. The next year, they came back and put the sidewalks where the trails were in the grass.

People enjoying each other’s company in public in the city of Beijing. Photo: Brenda Daniels (2014)

People enjoying each other’s company in public in the city of Beijing. Photo: Brenda Daniels (2014)

The Human Scale is the second film I have watched at the Durban International Film Festival. It was listed under the Architecture Films section of the programme.

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Hitchcock’s film at DIFF not a usual ‘whodunit’

The Durban International Film Festival runs from 17 to 27 July 2014.

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The first film I saw was Rear Window. Unlike many of the films at the Festival, this one is not a new one. It was in fact made in 1954 and is listed under the Festival section “The Films That Made Me”. This section includes only five films – selected by South African director Khalo Matabane as the five films that were influential in his growth as a filmmaker.

Rear Windowwas made by Alfred Hitchcock and stars blue-eyed James Stewart and Grace Kelly. The story is shot completely from the “rear” window of LB Jeffries’ apartment in Greenwich Village.

Injured whilst on duty, Jeffries is confined to a wheelchair and out of boredom he watches the goings-on of his neighbours as they live out their lives displayed for Jeffries to see in their own rear windows. Knowing that it was an Alfred Hitchcock movie I expected a murder and, sure enough, quick-witted Jeffries begins to suspect one of his neighbours as having murdered his wife.

The pace is slow, and at times boring. But it picks up towards the end. And when seen from its conclusion Rear Window is a tightly crafted film that is much more than a simple whodunit.

James Stewart in Rear Window (1954)

James Stewart in Rear Window (1954)