Book Club Benefits

My book and movie entertainment this week was local, down to the town in which I live. More than the pleasurable local aspect, my enjoyment of the book in question was greatly increased by the book club discussion around it; I should think of joining a movie club to, similarly, enhance my appreciation of the films I watch.

The film I saw, 3 Days to Go, by producer Bianca Isaac, showed familiar backdrops of the Durban beachfront and shoreline. Summer sunshine filtering through in the indoor shots was, likewise, wonderfully recognizable. As with the setting, I thought the filming itself was well done and made for good viewing.

The story of 3 Days to Go revolves around the death of the patriarch of a South African Indian family. Upon his death, for the first time in many years, the man’s four adult children return to the family home and to their widowed mother. Tensions ensue as each comes with a load of baggage. Abusive or wayward husbands, difficult teenage children, gambling brothers, schemes, betrayal, extended family issues and more are what emerge during the three short days before the man’s final ocean memorial.

I’m not a fan of all romantic comedy, and some of the acting in 3 Days to Go is a bit stilted. But the actors themselves are beautiful to behold, and the film will find a following amongst audiences.

Family concerns and more also feature in the book The Blessed Girl by South African author, Angela Makholwa. More seriously, The Blessed Girl raises the thorny (horny?) subject of blessers – people ‘(usually male and married) – who sponsor younger women with luxury gifts or a luxurious lifestyle in exchange for short- to medium-term sexual relationships’ (The Blessed Girl).  During a lively discussion of the book at the book club I attend we discussed the author’s treatment of the role of social media, the mockery of government corruption, male irresponsibility, shocking family handling of young girls, drugs, and of course the prevalence of blessers and blessees. The Blessed Girl is written in a flow-of-consciousness, conversational style, and is laced with humour and colloquialisms that I especially enjoyed.

Disagreements as to the merits of The Blessed Girl, and grappling with the issues raised in this book made for fruitful discussion.

Here’s to South African flavour and to discussion forums!

The Blessed Girl is available on Kindle. 3 Days to Go opens at South African cinemas on 25 January 2019.

German Films Undo Stereotypes at DIFF 2017

There was a ‘German Focus’ at this year’s Durban International Film Festival. Ten German films were screened as part of this focus. Lien Heidenreich-Seleme of the Goethe-Institut explained that the institute’s goal was to ‘undo stereotypes through visual storytelling’. There remained a general impression, said Heidenreich-Seleme, that German cinema was highly political and serious. The new filmmakers wanted to break that stereotype.

Well, I think they did a good job. I saw three of the ten and can recommend all of them. Humour, sensitivity, quirkiness, captivating cinematography and unique storytelling featured in various degrees in the films I watched.

Goodbye Berlin is the story of two fourteen-year-old boys (Tshick and Maik) who form an unlikely friendship one summer. Both social outsiders, the boys have absent/no parents and look for belonging and to be special to someone. They take matters into their own hands when they fail to be invited to a popular girl’s party, steal a car and set off across Germany in search of some mythical place. Along the way they forge a friendship that will ostensibly last a lifetime, discuss deep life issues, and develop a confidence that (Maik certainly) didn’t have before.

Another film that centred on friendship was The Most Beautiful Day. In this story two men in their thirties dying from incurable diseases meet at a hospice. Throwing caution out of the window the two go on a stealing spree, trade in the goods for cash and then set off on an African adventure. Apart from death the story touches on other sensitive issues like love, courage, commitment and treasuring what is important. But it never gets sentimental. A little silly in places The Most Beautiful Day is nevertheless very funny and – of interest to South African viewers – features a strong South African element.

Paula is an altogether different film to the two above and tells the story of German painter Paula Becker. Paula was a free-spirited young woman in the early 1900s, determined to do the unacceptable for women, which was to: paint for a living and paint in her own unique style. She did this, eventually. The story of Paula’s art is told in parallel to her personal love life. The sexual tension throughout the film is evident and forms an integral part of why (according to the storytellers in this film) Paula painted what she did. Carla Juri who played Paula was absolutely brilliant and the cinematography throughout its German countryside and Paris setting flowed beautifully.

I thoroughly enjoyed my experience of the German Focus at the 2017 DIFF. I only hope these features make it to the mainstream cinema circuit in South Africa.

Source: IMDB

Mo Magic in Durban

Along with a happy, enthusiastic crowd I got to see Mo Magic’s pre-opening Durban show on 10 February. The bright, energetic young magician has a lovely stage presence and the show is just under one and a half hours long without an interval, so is an easy night out.

Mo Magic VIP Invite Durban 10 Feb 2016

Photo provided by Illa Thompson Publicity Matters.

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 The magic of The Royal Ballet comes to the Big Screen with Cinema Nouveau

 A classic production of Swan Lake –“the World’s Most Loved Ballet – combines drama and tragedy in the battle between good and evil”.

Photo: supplied

Photo: supplied

A season of five famous ballets from the Royal Ballet is being screened at Cinema Nouveau theatres over the next few months. The season launched with Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in March. The next production to be shown on the big screen is the iconic ballet set to Tchaikovsky’s beautiful music, Swan Lake on 2 May.

Swan Lake, surely the greatest of all Romantic ballets, is the captivating story of a beautiful woman transformed into a swan, and a heart-rending tribute to the power of love. The ballet is a perfect synthesis of choreography and music and, though Tchaikovsky did not live to see it become a success, his first ballet score is now synonymous with ballet itself, inspiring generations of dancers and crossing over into popular culture.

Swan Lake releases on South African screens on Saturday 2 May for four screenings only – on 2, 6 and 7 May at 7.30pm and on 3 May at 2.30pm – only at Cinema Nouveau theatres in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town. Bookings are now open. The running time of this ballet production is 2 hours, 10 minutes plus two intervals (20 minutes and 25 minutes).

For booking information on the Royal Ballet’s Swan Lake, visit www.cinemanouveau.co.za or sterkinekor.mobi. For queries, call TicketLine on 0861 Movies (668 437).

Information supplied by Cinema Nouveau.

Coffee time, with the professionals

Photo: Brenda Daniels

Photo: Brenda Daniels

Picture: Sha Coetzee (left) and Anthony Abiet at the official opening of vida e caffé, La Lucia Mall, Durban, on Thursday 22 May 2014.

Anthony, the exuberant General Manager at vida, educated customers on the opening day about some of the intricacies of how the café makes their coffees. This includes the correct coffee-making techniques, such as time taken to draw the water and temperature to which the milk is heated.

It also involves the customer service process; ordering at one end of the counter and delivering at the other. Another important aspect is the coffee “experience”; the store at La Lucia is a particularly nice-looking one, with cork finishes and oak surfaces, and staff are trained to make “customers friends”.

Sha Coetzee is a customer-come-friend. She has been patronising vida for many years, popping in to a store daily, sometimes twice a day. She started visiting vida in Cape Town first and is now a faithful customer in Durban.

Like Sha, I love going out for a good cappuccino and don’t feel I’ll ever dabble in the art of “proper coffee-making” at home. Many people do though and according to my son-in-law, Stuart Turton, “Durban is experiencing a kind of resurgence toward home-produced coffee.” You can go really big (for example a Bezera Italian machine which a friend reports now costs almost R20,000) or start small. The vida website, for instance, demonstrates a very natty little thing called a capsule machine. My son-in-law has started his coffee endeavours with a “moka pot” and a hand-held milk frother (see the picture below). The, er, jar in the background of the photo is the stage I’m at… Which is why I need to go out for coffee!

Photo: Robyn Turton

Photo: Robyn Turton