2015 PACSA Film & Arts Festival

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The 2015 edition of the PACSA Film and Arts Festival takes place from Thursday, 24th September to Saturday, 27th September 2015 at the Msunduzi Museum (the old Voortrekker Museum), at 351 John Langibalele Street, Pietermaritzburg. The annual PACSA Film and Arts Festival is once again set to showcase a stimulating and highly topical range of art forms – all of which celebrate the aspirations and imaginings of ordinary South Africans, and remind us of the power of art to challenge the status quo.Under the theme “Imagine we all belong here”, this year’s festival will explore a richer understanding of the concept of belonging – one that moves beyond a strictly rights-based definition of citizenship towards the recognition that “real living” relies on concepts such solidarity, rootedness, acceptance and the celebration of difference.   Hosted in collaboration with the Msunduzi Museum, the festival will open with a cartoon exhibition, profiling the work of well-known South African cartoonists Qaps Mngadi and Brandan Reynolds. In addition to an impressive line-up of thought-provoking films, including a World Premiere, the festival also offers the popular Jazz Festival and Spoken Word session, the latter being supplemented this year with a stage drama, as well as comedy in the form of comedic duo Amawele Ase-Chesterville. As usual there will be a film-making workshop and a children’s art workshop. New to this year’s programme are food, cultural artefact and traditional dancing exhibitions as well as two book-readings.   World Premiere Among the highlights of the festival will be the World Premiere of KZN-based photographer Cedric Nunn’s new documentary. Titled, In the Shadow of Isandhlwana: The Rorke’s Drift Arts and Craft Centre Story, the film takes the viewer on a journey through the history and challenges facing one the first art school for black artists in South Africa and one of the country’s longest running arts and craft centres. After its first-ever screening in Pietermaritzburg, the film will move to other festivals. Although he will be in New York at the time to promote a new book of photography, filmmaker Cedric Nunn will be on Skype at the screening to talk about his work and to respond to questions.   Cartoon Exhibition Another festival highlight is the Cartoon Exhibition, the launch of which will be held on Heritage Day. Well-known South African cartoonists Qaps Mngadi and Brandon Reynolds have put together a collection of some of their best work for the display and will be present at the launch to speak about their work and the role of satire in society. Reynolds, who works for a arrange of publications, including Business Day, Rapport and Weekend Argus, said he is looking forward to engaging the public and members of the Pietermaritzburg arts community around issues that speak to the value of cartooning and satire in South Africa today. “Cartooning is a powerful weapon to render complex issues and their consequences accessible to everyone, with the lofty ideal of ultimately holding government and politicians to account for decisions and policies they make, or purport to make, on behalf of us ordinary citizens.” Mngadi, who is well-known to readers of Isolezwe and Echo newspapers, said the festival was an important opportunity to promote his belief in cartoons as “edutainment” – an educational and artistic tool that can play a vital role in getting people to talk about issues and potentially change the way they think.   “People tend to think that cartoons are only intended to insult, attack and undermine their targets – that’s certainly the way our government is framing it – but it’s time for people to realise that cartooning is not about simply picking on someone. It’s about education. They provide a lesson about an important social issue, be it about politics, municipal services, natural resources, or life in general,” he said.   Programme highlights Now in its sixth year, the PACSA festival has come to occupy an important place in the city’s cultural calendar. In addition to a fascinating line-up of quality local, regional and international film productions, this year the festival features a stage production in the form of Umkhonto Wabantu, which captures real-life events in the uMgungundlovu District, starting with the formation of Umkhonto weSizwe and moving forward to the political violence that wracked the area in the nineties.   In addition to Cedric Nunn’s new documentary, local films include a documentary made by PACSA. Titled “Racism in ‘Maritzburg: Voices from the Street” the film gives ordinary people an opportunity to talk about their personal experiences of racism in the city.   A film about the late Nelson Mandela – Nelson Mandela: the Myth and Me – by leading South African film-maker Khalo Matabane offers a sobering take on the legacy of the former president and reflects on the often unfulfilled promises of democracy. Moving north, The Square provides an account of the revolution in Egypt while the Beats of the Antonov documents the Sudan-SRF conflict in the Blue Nile and Nuba Mountain regions. Man on Ground by Nigerian director Akin Omotoso (known for internationally successful films such as Blood Diamond and Lord of War) is a film about a refugee in search of his half-brother and is inspired by the xenophobic attacks in South Africa of May 2008. Wading incisively into the global arena are two films: Poverty Inc., which interrogates the true beneficiaries of international poverty-relief programmes; and It’s Not Over, which takes a fresh look at HIV/Aids through the eyes of four young people living in different parts of the world.   PACSA director Mervyn Abrahams said this year’s festival once again highlights the power of art to give a voice to the marginalised. “Last year we celebrated the tenacity and determination of ordinary people living at the margins to speak and act. This year, we want to interrogate the quality of that ‘living’ and the need for a real sense of belonging. We are calling on people to use their creativity to imagine what a real sense of belonging might entail,” he said.   “The festival gives expression to our imagination of what it means for us all to (really) belong so that we can all (really) live. It is a celebration of our differences in the context of our joint humanity. The festival offers us a space to ask questions of our democracy but also of our relationships to one another to imagine together around the society and the economy we wish to build together. We celebrate together in a type of festive carnival which uses the visual arts – dance, theatre, music, street performances, satire and film – to explore the serious questions of our time in a way which is real, linked to our everyday experiences but also one which engages with our dreams of what can be,” he said.   See the PACSA website (www.pacsa.org.za), Facebook page (www.Facebook.com/PACSAPMB) and the media for the full programme of events.


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