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17 films to watch at the 2019 RapidLion Film Festival

The RapidLion South African International Film Festival is where all filmmakers from Africa, the African diaspora and BRICS countries showcase their best work and find ways to lead each other towards the creation of even more magical cinema. The 2019 RapidLion Film Festival will be held at The Market Theatre from 1-10 March 2019 and we’ve picked some must-see films, check them out below.

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Sew the winter to my skin

Director: Jahmil X.T. Qubeka
Duration: 2hrs
Country: South Africa
Screening Date & Time with Q&A with Director Jahmil X.T. Qubeka: 6 March 2019 (19:30)

Synopsis: The true story of John Kepe explores the inherent desire and need in humanity to, not only seek out heroes, but also to fabricate and create them. The film depicts the cinematic ballad of the outlaw, John Kepe. This self-proclaimed “Samson of the Boschberg Mountains” stole primarily livestock from colonial farmers in the vast arid expanse that is South Africa’s rural Great Karoo region and shared his spoils with the impoverished. He did this for over a decade before events culminated in his capture at the pre-dawn of apartheid. He was subsequently prosecuted for a murder he did not commit and condemned to death by hanging. Led by General Botha, a decorated World War II veteran, a manhunt ensued for the capture of Kepe in the very mountain where he was rumoured to occupy a Noah’s Ark-like cave. It is this spectacle that ingratiated Kepe into the hearts and minds of the marginalised and poor indigenous population who turned Kepe’s miscreant deeds into the stuff of legend, instantly making him a threat to the very fabric of the developing colonial society. Sew the winter to my skin dissects the psychosis and existential romantic interpretation of legend and heroism. It is an aggressive exploration of the effects of the colonial displacement that sewed the seeds for one of the most viciously racist, political regimes in history.

Director Biography: Award-winning Filmmaker and screenwriter Jahmil X.T. Qubeka’s career has spanned over 15 years covering an entire spectrum of filmmaking disciplines. Most notably, his documentary and feature film work has enjoyed screenings at various prestigious international film festivals around the world. In 2005, an AIDS documentary he directed for Sesame Street won the prestigious Peabody Award in America for best actuality programming. In 2014 Jahmil received the South African Standard Bank Young Artist Award in the Film category. His second feature film, Of Good Report (2013), has the inauspicious reputation of being the first feature film to be effectively banned in post-apartheid South Africa. The film had its world premiere at the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival in 2013. It is also the first African film to be selected in official competition at the London International Film Festival. The film went on to win the BAFTA LA Best Feature Prize at the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles in 2014, and won best feature along with a plethora of other awards at the Africa Movie Academy Awards in Nigeria after winning an unprecedented seven statues at the South African Film and Television Awards in 2014. Sew the winter to my skin, Jahmil’s latest film, was South Africa’s official selection to compete for the 2019 Best Foreign Language Oscar.

In the Light of the Fire

Rafeeqah Galant RapidLion film festival in the light of fire

Director: Rafeeqah Galant
Duration: 13 minutes
Country: South Africa
Screening Date & Time with Q&A with director Rafeeqah Galant: 8 March 2019 (12:00)

Synopsis: Having escaped a mental health facility into the lush KwaZulu-Natal forest, Slindile finds herself alone. She must now brave her way through this South African woodland. On this journey, she encounters three characters who remind her that she must never forget who she is and where she comes from. It is in this relearning of her past that Slindile can move into the future.

Director Bio: Rafeeqah Galant is a filmmaker working predominantly from Cape Town, South Africa. She is the co-founder of Echo Ledge Media, where she works as a writer, director and producer. Her professional goal is to tell stories that explore universal ideas and develop projects in a way that is intuitive and effective to realise her dream of creating meaningful content that will impact South African audiences and then go on to travel the world stage, showcasing our African perspective.

Elevate

Director: Angela Matemotja
Duration: 1hr 33mins 33secs
Country: United States/Russia/South Africa
Screening Date & Time with Q&A with director Angela Matemotja: 7 March (10:30) & 8 March 2019 (17:30)

Synopsis: When elevators get stuck, Trina is the overweight dispatch operator on the other end of the emergency line. Her job gets the best of her as she tries to complete just one day of healthy eating. Harassed by her cruel boss and overwhelmed by the trapped elevator occupants that reach out to her for help, her only escape is Lola, a fitness guru who she desperately tries to emulate.

Director Biography: Angela Danielovna Matemotja was born in the former USSR and now lives in Los Angeles. Because she was born into a bi-cultural family, her perspective and experiences in this world have never been “ordinary”. Her black South African father was a part of the political arm of the ANC, which helped him escape apartheid to study in the former USSR where he met and married Angela’s mother, a young Russian woman whose family settled in Kiev after the war. Kiev is also Angela’s birthplace. Because of her father’s exile existence, by the time she was 8 years old, Angela had lived in Russia, Kenya, and Tanzania. Arriving in America speaking only Russian and Swahili, she immediately realised that she did not fit in with other kids. These early experiences coupled with her empathic nature helped her form her unique outlook on culture, society and race. Her mission has been to explore the social, sub-cultural and international aspects of our nation, one story at a time. She believes that our world is in crisis, and that art can heal it.

Cut-Out Girls

Director: Nicola Hanekom
Duration: 1h25mins
Country: South Africa
Screening Date & Time with Q&A with Producer Grant Swanby: 2 March 2019 (19:00)

Synopsis: Cut-Out Girls is the story of how six young women’s lives are altered by the actions of two aspiring sportsmen. Kevin and Mike are young men trying to get ahead in the competitive world of tennis. When one of them discovers a dangerous key that can unlock their potential, things get out of hand. Their worlds become intertwined and spiral out of control. A small series of seemingly insignificant moments weave together with devastating consequences. In every moment lies a choice. The frightening truth is that we can all turn from ‘us’ to ‘them’. The trick, the prayer, the hope, is that we won’t. Cut-Out Girls is inspired by the #MeToo movement and is a film about date rape aimed at creating social change.

Director Biography: Born in South Africa, Nicola Hanekom studied drama at the University of Cape Town and City Varsity. She has been a freelance actress, director and writer for the past 20 years. Her theatre work, produced by her husband, Grant Swanby, through their company Haas & Kaas, includes a series of site specific productions Betésda, Lot, Babbel, Trippie and Land van Skedels. These, together with her latest play In glas have garnered twelve Kanna awards, eleven Fiësta awards, two ATKV writing awards and one Aartvark award. Nicola was also awarded the Eugene Marais prize for her collection of plays Die pad byster. She has written and directed two short films, Trippie and Unspoken. Trippie won two Silwerskermfees awards. Cut-Out Girls is Nicola Hanekom’s first feature film.

Set yourself on fire

Director: Darnell Lamont Walker
Duration: 58mins 29secs
Country: United States
Screening Date & Time with Q&A with director/producer Darnell Lamont Walker: 4 March 2019 (20:30) & 5 March 2019 (10:30)

Synopsis: This documentary explores what it means to invite survivors to be heard, and believed. Rape is a violent act that’s hidden itself in the tiny fabrics of our many cultures, begging us to normalise it. Too often, it goes unpunished because it’s main function up to this pint has been to keep patriarchy intact. Set yourself on fire explores what it means to create a safe space for survivors to share their stories of rape, hopeful healing, and, sometimes, reconciliation.

Director Biography: “I became a filmmaker by accident”, Darnell Lamont Walker says, “I travelled during a time of American unrest, and returned home with a ton of footage. I made a film, ‘Seeking Asylum’, which explored Black Americans’ desires to escape American tyranny for safer lands”. Since then, Darnell has created works that explore death, mental illness, education, art, and revolution. Born in the US in Charlottesville, Virginia, to Doreen Wells (Larry Wells) and Perry Jones and raised by a village that didn’t quite understand the world he was after but was amazingly supportive anyway, Darnell advocates for the voice of all people. Quoting Nina Simone as often as possible, Darnell understands that his duty is to reflect the times, whatever that may mean for the space he’s occupying. “I want to always create and fight,” he says.

Aye

RapidLion film festival aye Pius Okaba

Director: Pius Okaba
Duration: 18mins
Country: South Africa/Germany
Screening Date & Time with Q&A with director Pius Okaba: 10 March (15:00)

Synopsis: When Aye-Ogun discovers that the priest who sexually molested him as a teenager also raped his mother, his life is flipped 360 degrees. After launching his search for confession, he discovers more than what he bargained for.

Director Biography: Pius Okaba is a Nigerian-born filmmaker with over 11 years of experience in film and television. He is currently based in Berlin, Germany, where he completed his master’s degree in film directing at the prestigious university Met Film School. Pius also studied acting at the New York Film Academy in New York, United States of America. His work has been screened at various cinemas and television channels worldwide.

Silent Winter

RapidLion film festival Silent Winer Da Fei

Director: Da Fei
Duration: 1hr 34mins
Country: China
Screening Date & Time 7 March 2019  (17:00), 9 March (13:30)

Synopsis: Silent Winter is about the lengths people would go to, to have offspring or to protect their family from the supposed stigma of childlessness.

Before I Forget

Director: Tiago Arakilian
Duration: 1hr 35minutes
Country: Brazil
Screening Date & Time: 6 March 2019 (17:30)

Synopsis: At 80 years of age, Polidoro decides to demolish the stability of his comfortable life as a retired judge and becomes a business partner in a strip-tease club. These dark desires astonish his family. Beatriz, his daughter, decides to lodge a judicial interdict against him, claiming that Polidoro is losing his mental capacity to make the right decisions. Subpoenaed to testify, his son Paulo declares himself incapable of giving an opinion because he hasn’t been in touch with his father for years. The judge sentences both father and son to spend time together for him to be able to later ask Paulo what he thinks of his father’s mental health. In the unusual setting of the strip-club, father and son will have their lives turned around as, after a long time, they will put their differences aside and get along.

Director Biography: Tiago Arakilian has been working as a director of photography, editor and post-production supervisor for more than 20 years. He has also produced hundreds of commercials, institutional video projects and feature films. In 2004, he moved to France and studied film at the Université Paris 8. Back in Brazil, he founded Titânio Produções, a post-production company, which participated in several high quality documentary projects such as Devoção by Sérgio Sanz, Waste Land by Lucy Walker, João Jardim and Karen Harley (Academy Award’s nominee for Best Documentary Feature in 2011), among others. He also worked on the feature films: A Falta que Nos Move by Cristiane Jatahy, Malu de Bicicleta by Flávio Tambellini; and others. In 2013, Tiago Arakilian released, as a producer, the comedy Mato sem Cachorro, that was watched by more than 1 million viewers. His last documentary film on Brazilian architecture, The Roberto Brothers, was released in the main Documentary Film Festival of Brazil, É Tudo Verdade, and was screened at the Première Brasil at Rio’s Film Festival in 2012. The movie was purchased by Canal Brasil and is being broadcasted since April 2014, and is also available at Amazon.com. Before I Forget is his first feature film as a director.

Irish Goodbye – LGBTQI Shorts

Director: Adetokumboh M’Cormack
Duration: 18 minutes
Country: Sierra Leone
Screening Date & Time with Q&A with Director/Actor Adetokumboh M’Cormack: 1 March 2019 (14:00)

Synopsis: Irish Goodbye tells the story of Nizar, a young closeted-gay man who is a conflicted, but devout Muslim refugee from Syria, and his night out with a quixotic Irishman, Eric. Along the way, they will confront issues of trust, abandonment, tragedy, and privilege. Eric seeks to seduce and draw Nizar out of his shell while Nizar confronts Eric for being nothing more than an emotional tourist in his life. The consequences of their adventure will haunt Nizar for long after the night is over.

Director Biography: Adetokumboh M’Cormack was born in Freetown, Sierra Leone, to Diplomat parents, and raised in Kenya and England. He has been in the international entertainment industry for over 20 years and is a graduate of the prestigious Conservatory of Theatre Arts and Film at SUNY Purchase College where he studied Acting. His acting credits include leading roles in movies like Columbia Pictures’ blockbuster Battle Los Angeles, Blood Diamond alongside Leonardo DiCaprio, and Captain America: Winter Soldier. He has also starred in hit TV shows such as Lost (where he played Father Yemi), Heroes, 24, and NCIS. Wanting to tell more stories about people who are underrepresented in main stream media, Adetokumboh decided to also step behind the camera and write and produce powerful stories about people who normally do not have a voice. Irish Goodbye marks Adetokumboh’s official directorial debut as a short film director.

Dying for Gold

Director: Catherine Meyburgh
Duration: 1hr 38 minutes
Country: South Africa
Screening Date & Time with Q&A with Director Catherine Meyburgh: 2 March (20:30) & 8 March 2019 (10:30)

Synopsis: South Africa’s wealth and white privilege have been funded by the large scale maiming and killing of people by the gold mining industry. Today, gold miner communities across Southern Africa have nothing to show for the wealth they produced except extreme rural underdevelopment and the world’s worst epidemic of TB and silicosis. Through testimonies from communities in mining families throughout Southern Africa, and the extensive use of contrasting archive materials, Dying for Gold tells the story of how we have arrived at this extraordinary situation. The film brings to the surface the real cost of South African gold.

Director Biography: Catherine Meyburgh works as director, editor and producer in documentary, fiction films and television. Her work in multi-projection design has been seen at the Met opera, New York, La Scala, Milano, amongst many other prestigious venues. She has edited over 30 documentaries which have been broadcast on Arte, Channel 4, BBC – Storyville, ZDF, SABC, NBC as well as screened at film festivals, IDFA, DIFF, and Berlinale. Her work in video installation has been presented at many galleries, museums and events (documenta, WAM, Iziko Cape Town, the Smithsonian). She has recently collaborated with William Kentridge and Thuthuka Sibisi and Philip Miller on the multi-projection performance piece The Head & the Load addressing the neglected history of African involvement in WW1, which premiered at the Tate Modern in London and at The Armory in New York in late 2018. She is co-director on the documentary Dying for Gold with Richard Pakleppa.

Angel’s mirrorBRICS Shorts

Director: Cheng Chao
Duration: 14 minutes
Country: China
Screening Date & Time: 6 March 2019 (10:30)

Synopsis: In China, in the early 1990s, a little boy and his family have just come to live in a large factory complex. As he explores his new surroundings, the boy comes across other boys his age playing ping-pong, and discovers their fascination with a cute little girl who spends her days looking out from the window of an upstairs apartment. Wanting to know more about the girl, the boy comes up with his own unique way of starting a friendship with her.

Director Biography: Born in 1980, Cheng Chao majored in organic chemistry in Northeast Normal University in China where he gained a master’s degree in the subject. In his youth, he started a rock band. Then he began shooting music videos for other rock groups and independent musicians. Having started painting as a child, it was not a big leap for him to enter the world of cinema from here. He is now a big fan of the movie art form.

Whack

Director: Zhang Taihai
Duration:1hr 27mins
Country: China
Screening Date and Time with Q&A with Director Zhang Taihai: 3 March 2019 (17:00)

Synopsis: Whack depicts the story of 39-year-old kickboxer Hongbing, a fighter close to retirement who must deal with a string of intertwined family dynamics and his fading fortunes.

A Leaf – Experimental shorts

RapidLion film festival Bishara Shoukry A Leaf

Director: Bishara Shoukry
Duration: 17 minutes 30 seconds
Country: Egypt
Screening Time with Q&A with Director Bishara Shoukry: 7 March 2019 (15:00)

Synopsis: A hand of a young woman moves on the chest of a man lying on his bed, coughing. The hand rubs liquid on to the chest. An old woman’s hand pushes a goat-skin milk bag on which a child is swinging. From a bore in the belly of the bag, drips the milk on the old woman’s hand, and flows from the young one’s palm. In the morning, when the house empties, Salma opens her eyes to the sound of a playful child swinging on the door of her room. When Salma attempts to grasp her, the child flees. Salma follows, yet can’t catch her. When Salma tries to trace the child’s footprints, following the same road the child went on, Salma herself disappears, leaving only an image on a water surface, or a reflection on glass.
     And once the picture has restored life, and the belly gets enlarged with a life, the image leaves its place to another, and a life renounces its path to another… and a leaf falls, one of thousands that fall, daily, without being felt by anyone.

Director Biography: A BA (Law) graduate from Ain Shams University, as well as a postgraduate diploma holder in International Law, Bishara Shoukry is an Egyptian Filmmaker, Screenwriter, Director and Producer who also graduated from the Film Directing Department of the Egyptian Academy of Art, after which he attended a course at the London International Film School. Bishara is currently working on The Mother and The Daughter, a feature film for which he is the scriptwriter, director and producer. A Leaf is Bishara’s third short narrative film.

(S)he – LGBTQI Shorts

Director: Sean Steinberg
Duration: 52 minutes 45 seconds
Country: South Africa
Screening Date & Time with Q&A with Director Sean Steinberg: 10 March 2019 (14:00)

Synopsis: After qualifying to compete in the 2016 Olympic trials for swimming, Penny Kemp, an intersex teenager, is forced to undergo gender treatment in order to keep her high levels of testosterone at bay. To make matters worse, Penny is ostracised by one of her teammates after Penny beats her out at the commonwealth games. (S)he is a coming-of-age drama that speaks to what it means to be a teenager, what it means to be accepted, and what it means to stand up for who you are in the struggle against prejudice and injustice.

Director Biography: Born and raised in Johannesburg, Sean Steinberg is a South Africa filmmaker. He graduated from the University of Witwatersrand with a BA Honours in English Literature and Philosophy, as well as an MA in Film and TV. In addition to this, he studied screenwriting at the Los Angeles Film School. He has written extensively on some of South Africa’s premier telenovelas and dramas. Of late, however, he has turned his focus to directing. Both his directorial debut, (S)he, as well as his multiple award winning short film, Axis Mundi (which won best director, screenplay and film at kykNET’s 2018 Silwerskermfees), are currently doing the festival circuit. He acted as writer, director, and producer on both of these films.

Two South Africans

Director: Kevin Harris
Duration: 1hr 51 minutes
Country: South Africa
Screening Date & Time with Q&A with direcor Kevin Harris: 5 March 2019 (18:30)  & 10 March 2019 (14:30)

Synopsis: On 24 April 1973, Marcello Fiasconaro, the Cape Town wonder-boy, equalled the South African record for the 800 metre. Two months later, on 27 June 1973, aged 24, he broke the world record for the 800 metre in Milan, Italy. A legend in his lifetime, and revered in Italy, Marcello’s 800 metre world record stood for ten years, and still stands today as the Italian record. As the South African record, it stood for 23 years before being finally broken by Hezekiel Sepeng who, on the 1st of August 1996, became the first black athlete ever, representing South Africa, to win an Olympic medal when he took silver in the 800 meters at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. This triumph was the euphoric climax to a determination and destiny that saw his brilliance on the track win hearts and minds, and overturn entrenched racist prejudice. It brought confirmation of a new dawn where black and white South African athletes could finally compete side by side on the world stage representing their country. Two South Africans is the combined life’s journey of Marcello Fiasconaro and Hezekiel Sepeng, two South African champions, told against the tortured backdrop of South Africa’s begrudging and grinding climb from the dark days of apartheid to the afterglow of a new, free and democratic post-1994 South Africa.

Director Biography: Best known as an anti-apartheid filmmaker in the 1980s when his work was twice nominated for an Oscar and received two Emmy Awards in the USA (the Oscar nominations were for co-productions Witness to Apartheid and The Cry of Reason made in 1987 and 1989 respectively. The Emmy Awards were for This we can do for Justice & for Peace broadcast by PBS USA as Land of Courage, Land of Fear in 1982), Kevin Harris is a South African filmmaker who has been working independently since 1979. In 1986 he conceived and produced the first season of the alternative series of documentary reports on South Africa during the military “state of emergency” under the apartheid regime titled South Africa Now. In 1992 he was awarded the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Film in SA. In November 2007 Kevin Harris received the Golden Horn Film & Television Award for Life-time Achievement in Documentary Film-making by the National Film & Video Foundation (NFVF) of South Africa. Since democracy in 1994, he has, to date, produced directed and photographed over thirty South African feature documentaries on a variety of current, social and political issues.

Cul de sac – Romantic Shorts

Director: King Kgosi
Duration: 6 minutes
Country: South Africa
Screening Date & Time with Q&A with Director King Kgosi: 3 March 2019 (15:00)

Synopsis: Jerry lives with his beautiful wife, Martha, in their meticulously decorated small house. The young couple have dreams of travelling to see their country. To fulfil this dream, Jerry adds the final touches to the car they will be taking on this journey of a lifetime. Once he is done, Jerry finally takes his wife on that long-awaited first trip. Together, they travel, pointing at interesting sights until nightfall. The next morning, the couple drives into a very quiet park for a picnic. They plan to travel even further, but this time they hope to see the world.

Director Biography: King Kgosi is the co-director and founder of DXFRAMES, a multimedia production company specialising in filmmaking and other ways of telling visual stories. Since 2000, King Kgosi has worked with some of South Africa’s industry greats such as Lance Gewer, the cinematographer for the Oscar winning film, Tsotsi.
     His career has provided King with the opportunity to travel the world, documenting global events such as the UN General Assembly in New York, and the G20 in Nice France and Hangzhou, China, to name two global events with Heads of State in attendance. He has worked on television and on documentaries, which include One and Undivided on which he was Director of Photography. Cul de sac is Kgosi’s second narrative short film as director after Lerato (2009), winner, Best Film, at the Lesotho International Film Festival. Says King Kgosi of his work; “I do what I love; tell stories that touch hearts”.

Themba

Sara Momtazian Themba RapidLion film festival

Director: Sara Momtazian
Duration: 1hr 25 minutes
Country: South Africa
Screening Date & Time: 8 March 2019 (12:00)

Synopsis: Themba, the young South African son of a domestic worker, is given a second chance by his teacher to re-write his test the day after he failed. He runs home to find his mother is not well and encounters other obstacles at home, which will prevent him from studying.

Director Biography: Born in Germany, Sara Momtazian grew up on the east coast of Australia and studied Filmmaking at the SAE College in Byron Bay and is currently living in South Africa. Sara worked on a number of community film projects across New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. The nature of her work there was focused on social issues and youth. Sara had the opportunity to be part of the Institute for Studies in Global Prosperity Film for Social Transformation course instructed by Mohsen Makhmalbaf in 2016. She has since, together with her husband, established a production company in South Africa, which also focuses on training young African filmmakers.