Joburg Film Festival Celebrates Legends of Storytelling

Joburg Film Festival attendees

As the curtain draws on the sixth edition of the Joburg Film Festival, presented by Multichoice and in partnership with Absa, the official awards ceremony took place last night at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg North.

The Joburg Film Festival is Africa’s premier film event, dedicated to showcasing exceptional cinematic works while nurturing the growth of the African film industry. With a focus on diverse storytelling and fostering dialogue, the festival brings together filmmakers, industry professionals, and audiences for an enriching cultural experience.

Highlighting an enthralling variety of films crafted by both local and international filmmakers, the festival unfolded against the vibrant canvas extending from Sandton to Milpark. Offering a dynamic assortment of cinematic gems originating from over 30 countries, the festival held audiences spellbound. From thought-provoking documentaries to gripping dramas and inspiring narratives, it reverberated with the power of storytelling and the myriad hues of human experiences.

The culmination of last night’s event brought together industry players eagerly anticipating the announcement of the finest films. And now, without further ado, let’s unveil the winners…

Amidst fierce competition, the coveted title of BEST FILM has been bestowed upon YELLOW BUS. This gripping feature, shot across four distinct countries, immerses viewers in its intense narrative against the backdrop of a sand-swept city nestled in the heart of the Arabian Gulf. With its evocative setting and compelling storyline, this feature captivated audiences and stood out as a testament to the power of cinematic storytelling.

The coveted title of BEST AFRICAN FILM has been awarded to the local South African production DEATH OF A WHISTLEBLOWER. This gripping tale, crafted by South African filmmakers, captivated audiences with its powerful storytelling and compelling performances. Set against the backdrop of contemporary South Africa, the feature delves into themes of corruption, morality, and justice, resonating deeply with viewers. Its recognition as the Best African Film underscores its significance and excellence within the African cinematic landscape.

Opening the festival with a surge of cinematic energy, LONDON RECRUITS claimed the prestigious BEST DOCUMENTARY award of the evening. Directed by the acclaimed filmmaker Gordan Main and brought to life by producers Jacinta De Nobrega and Robyn Slovo, this captivating documentary guided audiences through the turbulent landscape of the 1960s. Based on true events, “London Recruits’ sheds light on a lesser-known chapter of history, offering a compelling narrative that resonates deeply with viewers.

A Special Mention went to the multi-award-winning doccie film WHO I AM NOT. Directed by Tünde Skovrán, this moving, funny, illuminating, and taboo-breaking film, set in Joburg follows the lives of two intersex South Africans – one a beauty queen the other an activist. This film sheds light and gives a voice to an underrepresented community in both English and Sesotho.

The esteemed jury for this year’s festival boasted an international lineup of highly regarded filmmakers and industry experts. Among them were Kenyan-born producer and director Tosh Gitonga, multiple award-winning South African actress Nthati Moshesh, legendary actor Dr. Jerry Mofokeng wa Makthetha, industry finance giant Pape Boye and film festival professional Andrea Voges.

The awards night also saw the announcement of the 2024 winner of the YOUNG VOICES film competition, the initiative of The Joburg Film Fest Youth and Audience Development Programme.  This year the programme embarked on a province-wide skills transfer initiative that reached over 250 young people via a series of workshops across Johannesburg. The workshops ​​specifically targeted youth living in townships and involved industry professionals sharing their extensive experience and knowledge on the amazing craft of cinematic storytelling with enthusiastic audiences.

Aspiring filmmakers from across the country were invited to submit a short film as part of the Young Voices film competition. Ultimately the super talented Ntokozo Mlaba took the YOUNG VOICE Award for the short film Everything Nothing. He walks away with a series of prizes including a bursary and internship. Following his acceptance speech last night announcing his current crowdfunding project, festival partner Absa pledged to assist him with additional cash injection of R150 000 to complete his project.

As the Joburg Film Festival enters its final day, an impressive lineup of exceptional local and international films and documentaries continues to grace screens across various venues. From Ster-Kinekor Sandton to Nelson Mandela’s Theatre of the Square, Artistry (BlackBrick), and the Bioscope in Milpark.

Concluding the Joburg Film Festival with a poignant finale, the South African drama SNAKE took centre stage as the closing film. Directed by veteran filmmaker Meg Rickards, this compelling narrative captivated audiences with its powerful storytelling and evocative performances. The film premiered at the Theatre of the Square in Nelson Mandela Square and viewers immersed themselves in this cinematic journey. Following the screening, a special Q&A session with the director provided an insightful opportunity for audiences to delve deeper into the film’s themes and creative process. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience SNAKE and engage directly with the visionary behind it.

By Sinenzolo Mondi – Nduku