in Africa Film & TV NewsFlash FULL: EDITION 209, 25 November 2003
Door Klaartje Jaspers
A mountainous landscape covered with dry bushes, stubborn drought-resistant sheep and conservative settlements. Fences, wind pumps, a town. One-tyre road, a prominent church and a saloon. From the window of his old Ford a friendly policeman confides the owner of the hotel is the owner of many establishments around here. He takes off. Dust. The silence in the streets seems to suggest Billy the Kid is about to appear any moment. Pseudo-reluctantly you glimpse over your shoulder to check nobody is aiming to pick up a duel. The street is empty.
Victoria West. If you wouldn’t know better, you’d think you’d entered a set, the confused decor of something in between a spaghetti Western and a Rockabilly musical. A late September-week long, the town gets to prove its image right and turns into the venue of the Apollo film festival. Actresses crawl between the well-ironed sheets of the old hotel, producers hook up to enjoy the village-priced beverages at the bar and a few genuine viewers carefully take the art d’eco seats. The rediscovery of its original cinema gave this sleepy little town in the middle of The Karoo the opportunity to portray itself as the venue of a real film festival; artistic liberals, rudish city-talks and deep-cut decollete’s included. An oasis in the desert to some, a thorn of the eye of many…. villagers.
A film festival in the desert. Whilst most festivals will not pay much attention to student productions, this one does. Since its inception in 2001, Apollo owes its growth to a large extend to the increasing numbers of entries by students from ADFA. In recognition, the organisation reviewed its award categories and decided to split the previous student category into two: student documentary and student short film. Peggy Gaines walks out with the Apollo Award for ‘Strong enough’, a documentary displaying the courage of the Cape Flat fisherwomen, going out every morning to get their two grey fish allowed, whilst Dean Blumbergs’ ‘Black Sushi’ is awarded as the students’ best short film. The competition is tight and beauties like Danie Bester’s ‘Skitterwit’, pass the Gala Awards Evening without even being mentioned.
Apollo - ‘A showcase of South African independent film’ - lives up to its self-awarded subtitle. Besides the works of the upcoming student directors and the regular entries of the latest South African productions, the festival screens a number of national classics - putting the new works in a historical framework. Directors are invited to come and introduce their work and take part in discussions on the South African audience and South African film. David Wicht explains how frustrated he got trying to produce Windprints during the Apartheid struggle; fighting to get money for a film which was not political enough to get cashed by the foreign liberals of the Anti-Apartheid movie, ending up seeing its moral sensitivity being castrated by the only sponsor that appeared to be willing to provide what was needed - on his very own conditions. Dumisani Phakati tells why he made Waiting for Valdez in photo-album style and passes the ‘credits of excellence’ straight on to his mum, who proudly accepts. Apollo is a festival of generations: the new and the old together, combining their experiences into one. Another feature of the rainbow nation. From here it’s only up to the public to visit and make it come true. The festival is funded by De Beers.