This weekend I was lucky enough to speak to one of the masterminds behind Jozi Film Festival, Lisa Henry, a founder and organiser of the festival. She, along with co-founders, Shareen Anderson and Brendon Burmester birthed what is now a fully-fledged festival out of sheer passion for film. What the journey to the third annual Jozi Film Festival would reveal was; some of the reasons I love this city and its people, and why the festival has struck film gold.
It began as a festival for films made in Jozi by Jozi, focusing on film with strong links to the city of Johannesburg, (can I get an amen?) with the first festival being held in 2012. Over the past two years the festival has began to include international films screening Orania, a German-made documentary film, as the opening film in 2013, which was greatly received by South African audiences. This year’s declaration – “Jozi Film Festival goes international!” – is indicative of the growing international appeal of the festival, with international filmmakers and local audiences demonstrating the idea that film, which Lisa aptly articulated, is an art form with no boundaries and borders with the ability to inspire and offer a different perspective. What makes this festival even more special is that there simply is no other festival like it. There are no specific types or genres of films screened, which lends itself to greater articulation of true diversity of film locally and beyond the borders of the city of gold. Melting pot, much? Take that Cape Town!
What the festival offers to those in the film industry is a platform, and how that all happens is the hard part. What the audience gets is some of the best short, feature and documentary films out there. To the ordinary movie-goer, this festival is a treasure trove of films. If you’re feeling out of the loop, or are caught up in the rat race, as most of Joburg is, this is the festival at which the gems in film are found in just one weekend.
What does the future on the Jozi Film Festival hold? We’ve already learnt that South African film generally has relatively small budgets but despite such constraints it’s still possible to make really good, home-grown film. So expect more of the same on this front. There’ll also be more collaboration between festival organisers, the film industry and film enthusiasts. The addition of the Masterclasses this year is already another step in right direction for upcoming, young filmmakers and masters alike. Also expect to see the plan to spread film to non-traditional areas that don’t have access to film to come to fruition. Still not happy? I get the feeling that the festival organisers are pretty receptive people, with a sixth sense when it comes to giving people what they want. But I’m still going to reiterate the offer made by Lisa to “tell us what you like”, and while you figure out what you do like, they’ll probably be in the final steps of making it happen.