The Durban International Film Festival Brings Germany To South Africa

The 38th edition of the Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) is set to captivate audiences with a German Focus, which features ten gripping films by some of Germany’s finest directors, a masterclass by German film industry professionals, as well as networking sessions with the cream of the international film industry crop.

Curated by Alex Moussa Sawadogo, the variety of the films on the lineup is set to keep audiences enthralled. Films such as The People vs Fritz Bauer (which relates to German history after the WWII and the role of the attorney of law Fritz Bauer in confronting the state with its political shortcomings), Paula (which recounts the journey of a well-known early 20th century painter, who discovered her artistic freedom in a more traditional Germany), Goodbye Berlin (a depiction of how the German Democratic Republic and the Federal Republic of Germany merged into one state, taking two young children as the protagonists of a road movie through former East Germany) and Greetings From Fukushima (which breaks the common stereotypes that surround Germans) will leave audiences with a better understanding of German history, culture and people. While Goodbye Berlin ties in with this year’s overall festival theme, “Transit Tales”, All of a Sudden, Greetings From Fukushima, Paula and Karl Marx City speak to one of this year’s focus areas: women-led films. DIFF audiences will have the chance to meet key people behind the productions. Anand Batbileg and Tristan Göbel, two of the most promising talents in Germany’s film scene and the main actors of Goodbye Berlin will be in Durban for a Q&A following the German Gala screening of Goodbye Berlin at The Playhouse (Drama Theatre) on 16 July (time TBC). The award-winning and family-friendly film was made by prominent filmmaker Fatih Akin who recently presented his last film in Cannes. Tickets for the Gala Screening are available at Computicket.

Long considered as a highly politicised cinema that placed social and political criticism at the heart of its creation, today, German cinema is dominated by a new generation of directors.

Another confirmed DIFF guest is Doris Dörrie, director of Greetings From Fukushima. With her unmistakable way of storytelling, she has been one of the towering figures in German cinema since she stirred up the countries’ film scene in 1985 with the gender comedy Men. Christian Schwochow has been awarded for both his cinema and theatre work and will visit DIFF in his capacity as Director of Paula. Petra Epperlein will visit Durban as well to present the extraordinary documentary Karl Marx City, which is a highly personal cinematic journey into her childhood to find the truth about her late father’s suicide and his rumoured past in the GDR’s secret service. Furthermore, Directors Karin Steinberger (The Promise) and Stephan Rick (The Dark Side Of The Moon) will be attending DIFF. The German Focus at DIFF 2017 is presented by German Films, the Goethe-Institut and the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in South Africa in cooperation with DIFF. Alex Moussa Sawadogo, director of the Afrikamera Festival and curator of the German Film Focus at DIFF elaborates: “Long considered as a highly politicised cinema that placed social and political criticism at the heart of its creation, today, German cinema is dominated by a new generation of directors. From diverse origins, free and gifted, these German directors are at the foreground of the vivacity of the production of German cinema, which is recognised all over the world. They bring the concerns of their generation in an intimate sphere on screen and discuss the tribulations of a new Germany that has opened itself to the world – particularly by receiving many people in distress. The German Film Focus at DIFF 2017 presents itself as a unique platform for the discovery of a program of new, diversified, exciting and engaging German films of all kinds – a cinema that places German people from all origins at the heart of its creation.”

From diverse origins, free and gifted, these German directors are at the foreground of the vivacity of the production of German cinema, which is recognised all over the world.

Mariëtte Rissenbeek, German Films Service said: “The majority of the films we are presenting have been very successful at a large number of international film festivals. The kinds of stories they tell and the way in which they are told are relevant for a larger international audience, and the director’s handwriting has both a specific and an international element. The strength of German cinema at present is its diversity. Since the year 2000 a number of German films, about German history and personal stories, have been made which achieved international success.” Lien Heidenreich-Seleme, Head of Cultural Programmes at the Goethe-Institut, added: “The goals of the Goethe-Institut are to support film within the creative industries and to undo with stereotypes through visual storytelling. We do this with training and networking initiatives, through interdisciplinary and pan-African collaborations, and by increasing access to the variety of German filmmaking. In this light, and after our longstanding relationship with DIFF, we are excited about this year’s German focus.” DIFF, the Goethe-Institut South Africa and Berlinale Talents have a decade-long partnership. This year marks the 10th anniversary of Talents Durban, a programme that began in 2008 as a result of the partnership between DIFF and Berlin International Film Festival’s Berlinale Talents, with the support of the Goethe-Institut and the German Embassy.

They bring the concerns of their generation in an intimate sphere on screen and discuss the tribulations of a new Germany that has opened itself to the world – particularly by receiving many people in distress.

Talents Durban is an annual five-day training and mentorship programme that runs at DIFF, aimed at empowering emerging 27 African screenwriters and directors working on projects for film, television, web series and content for mobile platforms. The 10th edition will take place from 14-18th of July under the theme “Perspectives: Seeing things differently”, which is derived from the observation that film alone may not change the world but can show the world when it changes. Talents Durban looks to not only highlight the stories of Africa, but create a culture of Africans telling their own stories, and most importantly from their experience and perspective of cutting edge and modern cinematic technology. Talents Durban is happy to welcome the German directors Doris Dörrie, Petra Epperlein and the two main characters of Fatih Akin’s film Goodbye Berlin, Anand Batbileg and Tristan Göbel. As part of Talents Durban and in association with the Goethe-Institut and FIPRESCI (International Association of Film Critics), the Talent Press programme will provide again mentorship and hands-on training in the craft of film criticism to three emerging African journalists. Furthermore, the Goethe-Institut will present “New Dimensions – Virtual Reality Africa”, a brand new package of four VR productions from Kenya, Ghana and Senegal. The works were co-produced with Cape Town based Electric South. To be shown at the Durban FilmMart, they allow a glimpse into the fascinating new opportunities that technology provides for visual storytelling. DIFF is one of Africa’s leading and longest-running festivals, and runs from 13 – 23 of July in Durban, South Africa. To find out more about the German Focus at DIFF, visit, or follow the Festival and the German Film Focus partners on social media:

Twitter: @DIFFest(#DIFF2017) @German_Films#germanfilms, @goethejoburg @berlin_talents@GermanEmbassySA

Facebook: Durban International Film FestivalGerman FilmsGoethe-Institut JohannesburgTalents DurbanGerman Embassy Pretoria

Instagram: @durbaninternationalfilmfest@germanfilms#germanfilms, @goethejoburg@berlinaletalents

The German focus booklet:

About the curator:

Alex Moussa Sawadogo studied art history in Ouagadougou and cultural management in Hamburg, specialising in dance and film. He worked for numerous cultural institutions and projects in Burkina Faso, among others the pan-African film festival FESPACO. After moving to Berlin, he acted as press- and cultural attaché at the Embassy of Burkina Faso in Berlin in 2005. Recently, he conceived and curated the „Border Border Express“ dance festival (Hebbel am Ufer). Furthermore, he co-curated the African films at the International Short Film Festival Winterthur and was artistic advisor for the “Open Doors 2012” program at Festival del Film Locarno. Mr Sawadogo has since 2007 been the artistic director of the AFRIKAMERA film festival.

About the films:

1Auf Einmal / All Of A Sudden




After the party in Karsten’s apartment, everybody leaves except Anna. Admiringly, Karsten approaches this mysterious woman. How could he have known, that in a moment of weakness, his well-established life would spiral out of control and turn into a disaster? In this small provincial German town, disappointment soon fuels anger, justice hides behind hypocrisy, and evil gradually unfolds.

2Das Versprechen / The Promise




The gruesome murders of Nancy and Derek Haysom in 1985 were a media sensation. The murder conviction of their daughter Elizabeth and her German boyfriend Jens Soering sent shock waves through Bedford County. After being arrested in 1986, they have now spent over 30 years behind bars. This beautifully crafted film reveals a mismanaged, completely corrupted, judicial process. Investigations over the past 3 years have turned up stunning evidence that was previously suppressed or deemed inadmissible. New forensic techniques have disproven evidence that was key to Soering’s original conviction. Unidentified fingerprints, evidence that points to sexual abuse, the presiding judge’s friendship with the victims, a missing FBI profile — all point to a very different story, one that is revealed in the film.

3Der Geilste Tag / The Most Beautiful Day




The quirky, overambitious pianist Andi (33) and the more laid back and relaxed Benno (36) have just one thing in common: They will both die soon. After some trouble at the hospice, the two of them decide to have the most awesome day before it’s too late. The first thing they need is money, which they cleverly scam, since going to prison is considering the limited amount of time out of the question. Then they set off for Africa! It will not only be a nightmare for Andi the hypochondriac, but also a huge deal for Benno, who will have to face his past for the first time in his life. The journey leads them through hazards, a number of comedic, tragic, dramatic and dangerous moments and finally to their original aspiration: The most awesome day of realising that you need to take life into your own hands to not miss out on it…

4Der Staat gegen Fritz Bauer / The People vs Fritz Bauer




Germany, 1957. Attorney General Fritz Bauer receives crucial evidence on the whereabouts of SS-Obersturmbannführer Adolf Eichmann. The lieutenant colonel, responsible for the mass deportation of the Jews, is allegedly hiding in Buenos Aires. Bauer, himself Jewish, has been trying to take crimes from the Third Reich to court ever since his return from Danish exile. However, with no success so far due to the fierce German determination to repress its sinister past. Because of his distrust in the German justice system, Fritz Bauer contacts the Israeli secret service Mossad, and, by doing so, commits treason. Bauer is not seeking revenge for the Holocaust – he is concerned with the German future.

5Die Dunkle Seite des Mondes / The Dark Side of the Moon




Corporate lawyer, Urs Blank, is the undisputed star of his profession. He has money and the perfect wife. But the suicide of a business colleague throws him off track and leads to an attraction with Lucille and her alternative lifestyle. Seduced into experimenting with hallucinogenic mushrooms, his dark side emerges, as with merciless power, long suppressed aggressions burst out and go wild. The once civilised lawyer turns into an instinct-driven individual and erratic murderer. Deeply unsettled by the change he flees to the woods in search of an antidote but the police and his vindictive business partner are already on his tracks.





Young doctor Fabian travels to Lisbon to win back his ex-girlfriend Doro. While the two of them are gradually getting closer again they are being haunted by their fears. Fabian’s jealousy once again puts their relationship to the test…

7Grüsse aus Fukushima / Greetings From Fukushima




Young German woman Marie escapes to Fukushima to change her life. Working with the organisation Clowns4Help, she hopes to bring joy to 2011 nuclear disaster survivors, some still living in emergency shelters. Marie soon realises she’s absolutely unsuited to the task of making tragedy less wearisome. But instead of running away, Marie decides to stay with cantankerous old Satomi, the last geisha of Fukushima, who of her own accord has decided to retreat back to her ruined house in the formerly radioactive Exclusion Zone. Two women who couldn‘t be more different, but who –  each in her own way – are trapped in the past and must learn to liberate themselves from guilt and the burden of memory.

8Karl Marx City




Twenty-five years after the collapse of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), filmmaker Petra Epperlein returns to the proletarian Oz of her childhood to find the truth about her late father’s suicide and his rumoured Stasi past. Had he been an informant for the secret police? Was her childhood an elaborate fiction? As she looks for answers in the Stasi’s extensive archives, she pulls back the curtain of her own nostalgia and enters the parallel world of the security state, seeing her former life through the lens of the oppressor. Reconstructing everyday GDR life through declassified Stasi surveillance footage, the past plays like dystopian science fiction, providing a chilling backdrop to interrogate the apparatus of control and the meaning of truth in a society where every action and thought was suspect.





Painting is an unacceptable vocation for a woman in provincial Germany in the year 1900, but budding artist Paula Becker is determined to make her own rules. The exuberant 24-year-old woman rejects the conventional and explores her unique style. She flourishes in the countryside art community of Worpswede, where she develops friendships with artist Clara Westhoff and poet Rainer Maria Rilke. By marrying painter Otto Modersohn, she hopes to find a creative soulmate. He allows her to continue painting while assuming her duties as a good wife. Five years of domesticity take its toll on Paula’s spirit, and she travels alone to modern Paris, where she studies at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and soon begins a romantic affair. Headstrong Paula is unstoppable: she embarks on a period that will become her most compelling; a long-awaited period of creative fulfilment and self-realization…

10Tschick / Goodbye Berlin




While his mother is in rehab and his father is on a ‘business trip‘ with his assistant, 14-year-old outsider Maik is spending the summer holidays bored and alone at his parents’ villa, when rebellious teenager Tschick appears. Tschick, a Russian immigrant and an outcast, steals a car and decides to set off on a journey away from Berlin with Maik tagging along for the ride. So begins a wild adventure where the two experience the trip of a lifetime and share a summer that they will never forget.


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