Dubai film festival fetes Asian, African films

Zulu-language film 'Secret Sky' opens new section

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DUBAI -- Nashen Moodley can't be blamed for being thrilled to bring the world premiere of "My Secret Sky," a Zulu-language film from his native South Africa, to Dubai.

Finished just weeks before the festival, the English-subtitled film about the resilience of a young brother and sister in the big city for the first time is the feature debut of theater and TV director Madoda Ncayiyana.

"We are so lucky to have this wonderful film about these wonderful children," said Moodley, organizer of DIFF's first Muhr Awards for Excellence in Asia Africa Cinema -- a section programmed by former Singapore International Film Festival chief Philip Cheah.

"Sky" was produced by South African Jeremy Nathan, who also produced director Darrell James Roodt's timely competition film "Zimbabwe," about the ravages of AIDS in one of Africa's poorest countries.

"Dubai pushed us to bring it to the festival and we're proud to launch it to the world here and see what happens," Nathan said. "It's a tough world at the moment, but one we hope is ready for this beautiful story

Bringing "Sky" along with 14 other features -- from Kazakhstan's award-winning "Tulpan" to the lesser-known "Gitmek" from Turkey to "Kyuka" from Japan -- was a labor of love for Moodley.

"I'd done African programs for Dubai before, but adding Asia was natural as Dubai is right between the two. Geographically, it makes sense," Moodley said.

On a personal note, Moodley, who is of Indian decent, said he has a soft spot for the films of Japanese auteur Kitano and that Durban "is one of the few cities in Africa where you can see a fair share of Asian cinema."

The Muhr Asia Africa jury is comprised of veteran filmmakers Adoor Gopalakrishnan from India, Niki Karimi from Iran and Park Ki-Yong from South Korea, French critic and journalist Olivier Bartlet and Festival de Cannes executive Christian Jeune.

The DIFF section also will feature 13 documentaries to be judged by Iranian writer-director Rakhshan Bani Etemad, Cameroon-born documentarian Jean-Marie Teno and Yano Kazuyuki, head of Japanese art house distribution network Cinematrix.

"Video technology is making documentaries from developing parts of the world possible and exciting," Moodley said. Among the documentaries competing are Chinese director He Jiangjun's "River People," about two Chinese boys struggling with their family's traditional fishing business, and "Grandmother's Flower," South Korean director Mun Jeong-Hyun's journey into his family's troubled past.

Thirteen shorts from Asia and Africa also will compete for Muhr prizes. They include "The Birthday" by Idrissa Ouedraogo from Burkina Faso and "The End of the Tunnel" by Chang Rong-ji from Taiwan.

The shorts will be judged by Nathan, German filmmaker and journalist Dorothee Wenner and Japanese director Naomi Kawase.
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