Sydney South African Film Festival goes national with virtual 2020 program

SSAFF Beyond MovingThe Sydney South African Film Festival (SSAFF) is one of Australia’s first festivals to go online in 2020. The Festival will screen nationwide from 16 to 25 May, with four feature films, four documentaries and one short. Question and answer sessions, and interviews with the directors, are planned to run in conjunction with the films.

“South Africa is a land of great beauty, tragedy, vibrancy, complexity, humanity and colour. It’s rich in unique stories that need to be told, which is why it produces outstanding cinema,” said Festival Director Claire Jankelson. “Our films demonstrates a passionate engagement with the country’s history and evolution, triumphing as popular art without romanticising or flinching from the truth.”

The films selected reflect South Africa’s diverse population, rich tradition of struggle for democracy and equality, and complex political and economic reality.

The festival opens with Beyond Moving – an uplifting documentary about Siphe November, a gifted ballet dancer discovered as a boy in the townships. A Billy Elliot story with a South African twist, the film follows Siphe as he trains with Canada’s National Ballet School and ultimately secures a premier position in the world of professional ballet.

Other documentaries include: The Space: Theatre of Survival – the story of the first racially inclusive arts venue in 1970’s divided South Africa; Buddha in Africa – which captures a Malawian teenager’s upbringing in a Buddhist orphanage, offering a revealing look at China’s influence in Africa today; and How to Steal a Country – which traces the looting of South Africa’s state-owned companies to the benefit of former President Jacob Zuma and his henchmen.

Two documentaries on legendary countrymen will screen alongside one another. The feature length Johnny Clegg: The White Zulu is an adventure into the life of one of South Africa’s most exceptional musicians. While short film Billy Monk – Shot in the Dark explores renowned photographer Billy Monk who made a name for himself shooting the 1960’s underground nightlife of South Africa, a place untouched by the division of apartheid.

Feature films that were inspired by South Africa’s conflict-ridden history include The Last Victims – in which a former member of South Africa’s infamous death squad seeks to atone for his past when he helps one survivor search for the bodies of a missing anti-apartheid cell; and Oscar-nominated Director Angus Gibson’s Back of The Moon – which centres on Sophiatown, a black ghetto at the centre of Johannesburg, which in the 1950’s had been the first target for removal by the Apartheid government.

Fiela se Kind (Fiela’s Child), adapted from South African author Dalene Matthee’s celebrated novel, tells the story of a mixed-race woman living in the arid Karoo who takes in a lost white child and raises him as her own. Nine years later, the boy is removed and forced to live in the Knysna Forest with a family of woodcutters who claim that he is theirs. The final film in the line-up is a slick and gripping boxing flick by award-winning director Jahmil X.T. Qubeka, Knuckle City.

The single premiere screenings are just $8.00 each or you can see all 10 films for $60.00. Tickets can be booked online. All ticket proceeds go to supporting Education without Borders in programs that assist young South Africans in some of the country’s most disadvantaged communities.

The Sydney South African Film Festival screens online: 16 – 25 May 2020. For more information and full program, visit: for details.

Image: Beyond Moving (film still) – courtesy of Sydney South African Film Festival