Getting to see new films during a festival a few weeks before having to write university exams is both a blessing and a curse. It is ultimately great because it takes your mind off of thinking about all that you need to study for which makes the experience all the more enjoyable. I’ve seen some really good to incredible films: Rafiki, I Am Not a Witch, The Miseducation of Cameron Post and Happy As Lazzaro (or Lazzaro Felice in Italian). Hopefully next year I will get to see more.
I Am Not a Witch is one of the most assured directorial debuts I have ever seen. The story is about a young girl Shula (played beautifully by Maggie Mulubwa) who is mistaken for a witch and is thus sent to a witches camp in her local village in Zambia. It is clear from the opening scene and throughout the first act that Rungano Nyoni is a great filmmaker. By the end—in the final scene—I was left speechless. Every scene and every shot carries so much meaning. Nyoni is able to make a story about a witch into something so much deeper than just a simple witch story. Throughout there is a deeper subtext of the ways in which tradition and patriarchy has dangerous affects, particularly on women and children.
I had been anticipating The Miseducation of Cameron Post ever since I had watched the trailer and more so when I saw that it was directed by Desiree Akhavan, an Iranian queer woman, something that would certainly provide a unique perspective that is so needed today. The story is about Cameron Post, a teenager who gets sent to a gay conversion camp when she is caught having sex with her female best friend. For a serious premise, the film was quite funny, which surprised me. A perfect blend of comedy and drama made it joyful as well as heartbreaking at times. Akhavan was able to find the humour and joy in the darkness and pain of being at a camp like this. It is rare to see a film that actually tackles issues LGBTQ youth have to face in an intelligent way, yet still allows teenagers to just be themselves: carefree and reckless individuals. Lead actress Chloë Grace Moretz gives undoubtedly the best performance of her career. I was blown away by how much I loved this beautifully directed story about young LGBTQ teens. It is easily in my top ten best of the year, and I cannot wait to see whatever Akhavan directs next!
I did not know much about Happy As Lazzaro going into the screening. All I knew was that it was directed by Alice Rohrwacher, who won best screenplay at Cannes this year for this; that instantly intrigued me. From the very first scenes I knew this was going to be a special film, yet I wasn’t exactly sure why. Halfway through I began to realise why and by the end I was left speechless. It is one of the most beautifully shot films of the year with gorgeous, dreamy cinematography, shot on Super 16mm by cinematographer Hélène Louvart. The Italian film is about a group of peasant farmers living in a pastoral village with the simple-minded and naïve Lazzaro as the lead protagonist. Lazzaro is played by Adriano Tardiolo whose face is truly made for the screen. He wonderfully captures innocence in his eyes, which contrasts against the hardship and corruption of the world around him. The film is ultimately a magical-realist fable about capitalism, consumption and moral decline, yet Lazzaro’s warmth and charm remains prevalent throughout, making for a gorgeous and heartwarming—at times heartbreaking—story of the corruption of innocence.
Although I wanted to see many more films—life as a student inevitably getting in the way—I still had an amazing time seeing the few screenings I was able to attend. The Cape Town Film Festival (which was from the 9th to 19th of October) was incredible and I certainly enjoyed my time. My first film festival was definitely a success, and I cannot wait to see what lies ahead for future festivals. Hopefully many more of them!