Interview with Tsitsi Dangarembga on her involvement with Durban Talents 2017

After returning from the Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) 2017, where she mentored upcoming filmmakers at the Durban Talents programme of that festival, well known filmmaker, founder of the International Image Film Festival for Women and founder and director of ICAPA Trust, Tsitsi Dangarembga spoke to WildTrack about her experience at the South African festival.
Q. Tell us about your involvement with DIFF?
TD: I've been involved with Durban for some years. I've been there 4 times. I was there in 2012 as a member of the jury. Then last year I was at the Durban Film Market, which is a project marketing programme.
OK: What did you do at DIFF this year?
TD: This year I was a mentor for the Durban Talents Program. This is a networking and project development platform for upcoming young African filmmakers. They had master classes and one-on-one consultations. I also delivered a master class on scriptwriting with south African scriptwriter, Busisiwe Ntintili.

OK: What were the highlights and remarkable aspects of DIFF2017 Durban Talents?
TD: What was remarkable about this year's DIFF was the projects that were presented. There were joint sessions where all the participants were involved, including a pitching session at the end where the projects were pitched to the whole group. The level of engagement with African social issues in the projects was high, and the passion for high creative and artistic narrative was strong. The young filmmakers clearly understood the importance of storytelling in society and this also influenced positively the kinds of stories that were then told as well as the way in which the stories are told. I think this comes from the fact that young Africans are being exposed to more and more storytelling in the form of film now with the internet, whereas before they were not always exposed to this kind of storytelling, so they understand more and have higher aspirations. This increased aspiration and refusal to be content with mediocrity also comes from the fact that the creative industries themselves are becoming more and more important in economies. And so people are actually entering the creative industry and earning a living from it. On the continent, of course, we have Nollywood. Nigeria has shown that film as a creative industry is sustainable and can sustain livelihoods. So I think that the young people now have a lot more opportunity to engage more deeply with film and then I think the other aspect is that it came from the selection that DIFF ma than previous generations of African filmmakers. The selecting panel did a wonderful job of choosing chose some very strong projects.

OK: Last year you produced IN MY FATHER`S VILLAGE that was shown at the short film competition at DIFF in July this year. How was it received?
TD: I have heard that audiences engaged positively with the film. It's selection shows the positive impact it had on the selection board. as a result of the DIFF screening we had a recommendation for it to be considered for a European short film festival. This is quite an achievement as the festival we received the recommendation for is an Oscar-selecting festival. I was busy with the Durban Talents and we were not able to engage with the program of screenings, beyond that.

OK: A WFOZ alumnus, your former mentee, Chipo Zhou, was appointed Director of DIFF in April. Is this a big honour for WFOZ?
TD: It is good to see that a WFOZ alumnus is serving the region at this high level. But at the end of the day all recognition goes to Ms Zhou for her dedication, passion and outstanding competence. I was able to meet Chipo, the new manager at DIFF. Although she is very busy, of course, she kindly made time to speak with at the closing party for the Durban Talents. I appreciated her graciousness, given the many demands on her. I was simply amazed that she was appointed in April and the festival happened in July. DIFF is one of the biggest film festivals on the continent, and so organising it in such a short period of time was an absolutely remarkable achievement. It's good to see young people striding forwards.

OK: What insights did you gather in Durban that could be important for the local film industry?
TD: While I was in Durban, I met somebody from the Bulawayo City Council who was there in an official capacity, since Bulawayo is twinned with Durban. He was very gracious to introduce himself to me. The Bulawayo City Council had also sent another delegate from the filmmaking sector to DIFF. I had the occasion to meet with these colleagues. An idea was mooted to adapt the Durban Talents program and bring it to Bulawayo. Here has been some conversation around this since our return. One of the things I did notice in Durban was that when the Talents made reference to films, it was usually to western films. It appears that apart from Nollywood it is not that easy for upcoming African filmmakers to access and watch African films. This is one of the issues that needs to be tackled.It would be wonderful for the Zimbabwean film sector and for the City of Bulawayo if this program could be realised.