A strong South African presence at Tiff


10 September 2015

Four South African features and one short have been selected to be screened at Toronto International Film Festival (Tiff), starting today in Canada.

The films are Oliver Hermanus’s Endless River, Charlie Vundla’s Cuckold, Zamo Mkhwanazi’s The Call, Jihan El-Tahri’s Nasser and Ben Russell’s YOLO.

A 20-member South African delegation, led by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), is also at the 40th edition of Tiff, which ends on 20 September. The aim of the trip is to promote South Africa’s attractiveness as a film destination to filmmakers attending the festival, and to provide exposure to emerging South African filmmakers.

“The participation of South African filmmakers in Tiff is part of the DTI’s strategy to create access to local film and video products and promote an increase in the volume of film production in South Africa,” said DTI Deputy Minister Mzwandile Masina.

The films

Mkhwanazi’s The Call is based in Joburg and explores the relationship between a taxi driver and a prostitute he impregnates. Tiff described it as an “arresting urban drama”.

Watch the trailer here:

Mkhwanazi was born in Durban, South Africa, and studied at the University of Cape Town.

Vundla’s Cuckold, starring Terry Pheto, is about a disintegrating marriage in which problems are exacerbated following a menage a trois.

Tiff described the movie as “surprising at every twist. Cuckold puts a new spin on the dramatic trope of the menage a trois, using it as a tool for dissecting a man’s emotional upheaval — and also as a means of debunking the false entitlements of chauvinism.”

Watch the trailer here:

Vundla was born in New York but is now based in Joburg. He studied journalism at George Washington University and film at the University of Southern California. Cuckold also marks the director’s debut as an actor.

Hermanus’s Endless River centres on a young waitress in a small South African town who forms an unlikely bond with a widower following the brutal murder of his family.

Endless River is a character-driven drama of crime, sex, revenge, and redemption,” reads the Tiff website.

Hermanus was born in Cape Town. He worked as a press photographer before completing his master’s degree at the London Film School. His previous features, Shirley Adams and Beauty were both screened at the festival.

El-Tahri’s Nasser is a political documentary about army officer Gamal Abdel Nasser, who ruled Egypt for a decade, starting in 1954. During his reign, he defied the West throughout the 1956 Suez Crisis, co-found the international Non-Aligned Movement, and dramatically lost to Israel in the Six Day War.

Nasser is the first instalment of [the filmmaker’s] planned trilogy on ‘Egypt’s Modern Pharaohs’, which will also include films on Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak,” states the Tiff site.

Born in Egypt, filmmaker El-Tahri is now based in South Africa.

Russell’s YOLO was filmed in the remains of the historic Sans Souci Cinema in Soweto. It’s a “makeshift structuralist mash-up created in collaboration with the Eat My Dust youth collective from Soweto’s Kliptown district”.

Reaping the rewards

Masina said the country had a growing reputation of being a global filming hotspot.

“Through promoting South Africa as an international destination to attract further international productions and in encouraging the generation of local content production, the country will continue to enjoy the benefits of the vibrant and growing film industry.”

He noted the industry generated approximately R3.5-billion into the South African economy and created more than 25 000 jobs last year.

“South Africa has an existing co-production treaty with Canada, which was signed in 1997,” notes the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) site. “This official trip will also assist in strengthening relations between local and Canadian filmmakers, mapping the way forward to future co-productions that (will) benefit both the countries.”


South African filmmakers attending the festival feel positive about marketing their creations to the world.

Pretoria filmmaker John Wani would like to negotiate with possible co-production partners, sales agents and international distributors for his movie, Sunnyside, about a drug lord who flees Mexico and settles in South Africa.

“I am already in discussion with an international film director from Canada with the aim of turning Sunnyside into a film that can sell globally,” said Wani. “I’m optimistic that my trip to Toronto will be a success.”

Nokulunga Jimana-Mntwapi will take a work-in-progress script and a trailer of her first movie Ndon’e bani’phi? (Who have I wronged where?). Her idea centres on a girl who is a product of incest. Jimana-Mntwapi would like to pitch her movie to potential international film buyers.

Western Cape filmmaker Faghrie Salie would like to find an international film buyer for his company’s documentary, Inside, which shows the devastating impact of the gang culture and drugs in Western Cape.

SAinfo reporter