The best South African film festivals you’ve never heard of

Love a good movie, but tired of the same old Hollywood films? (Anyone sat through San Andreas recently? Oh. My. Word.) Happily, South Africa has a variety of local and international film festivals every year, showing anything from the good old classics to cutting edge documentaries across a huge range of topics. Many of these take place at beautiful screening venues across the country. Look out for these 19 great film festivals and interesting screening locations around South Africa. And if we’ve missed any, please do let us know in the comments.

 

The Wavescape Film Festival in Cape town.

The Wavescape Film Festival takes place at various locations around Durban and Cape Town, including Cape Town’s Clifton 4th beach.

The film festival list

Below is an alphabetical list of film festivals that take place in South Africa annually. There’s enough variety to suit every type of movie fan and popcorn-lover. And remember:

 
“No art passes our conscience in the way film does, and goes directly to our feelings, deep down into the dark rooms of our souls.” – Ingmar Bergman

 

1. Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour

When: October and November
Where: Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, Port Eilzabeth and Pretoria

BANFF Movie Festival
 
Showcasing the talents of the world’s finest mountain filmmakers, the Banff Mountain Film Festival enables film-goers to experience the adventure of climbing, base jumping, alpine skiing, kayaking, mountain expeditions, remote cultures, and the world’s last great wild places. Screenings take place once daily during October and November at selected Ster Kinekor cinemas in Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, Port Eilzabeth and Pretoria.

More information: www.banff.co.za

 

2. Durban International Film Festival

When: July
Where: Durban

Arguably the continent’s biggest film event, the Durban International Film Festival attracts both film-lovers and industry representatives from all over Africa and beyond, creating a hub for the African film industry. While the focus is on African films, this 10-day celebration also includes features, documentaries and short films from around the globe, as well as the Wavescape Surf Film Festival (see below).

More information: www.durbanfilmfest.co.za

 

3. Encounters

When: June
Where: Cape Town

Encounters Film Festival
 
Encounters is a Cape Town festival that features prize-winning and award–nominated films selected from hundreds of submissions from across the world, including a collection of profound and inspiring African-themed and international documentaries.

More information: www.encounters.co.za

 

4. European Film Festival

When: May
Where: Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg and Pretoria

The European Film Festival is hosted by Cinema Nouveau and coordinated by the French Institute of South Africa, with screenings taking place in Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg and Pretoria. All the featured films are the recipients of numerous awards and accolades at international film festivals and competitions, including the Oscars and the Cannes Film Festival.

More information: www.ifas.org.za

 

5. Galileo Open-Air Cinema

When: November to April
Where: Cape Town

Galileo Open Air Cinema
 
Romantic dramas, timeless classics, documentaries and action movies are all shown at various beautiful outdoor venues across Cape Town, including Hillcrest Quarry, V&A Waterfront, Kirstenbosch and the winelands. Galileo also screens a variety of outdoor and adventure movies. Have a look at their latest programme – there’s something for everyone.

More information: www.thegalileo.co.za
Also read: Galileo, Galileo: open air cinema in Cape Town

 

6. Indie Karoo Film Festival

When: July
Where: Prince Albert

South African independent filmmakers, film buffs and those who just enjoy a good movie and buckets of popcorn take over the charming Karoo town of Prince Albert for a weekend of movies, documentaries and experimental films. These include full-length features, documentaries and films by independent South African filmmakers.

More information: Indie Karoo Film Festival Facebook page

 

7. Jozi Film Festival

When: February
Where: Johannesburg

Jozi Film Festival
 
The Jozi Film Festival showcases the latest films made by South African and international filmmakers in one of Africa’s most vibrant cities – Johannesburg. The movies highlight the very best in film making, presenting a multi-genre slate of films from emerging and established filmmakers, while exploring a broad range of topics that affect our communities and stir hearts and minds. The screenings take place over a three-day period at several venues throughout Johannesburg, including The Bioscope Independent Cinema.

More information: www.jozifilmfestival.co.za

 

8. Khayelitsha Film Festival

When: June
Where: Cape Town

The Khayelitsha Film Festival has its roots in Amazwi Wethu (Our Voices), a Khayelitsha-based youth media project that began in 2012, when graduate students from The New School in New York taught students in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, the skills to venture into documentary storytelling. The first screening took place in Khayelitsha in June 2014, with four of the five featured films being documentaries set within the African continent, namely Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa. It is hoped that this festival will become an annual event.

 

9. KykNET Silwerskermfees

When: August
Where: Cape Town

KykNET Silwerskermfees
 
Held annually in Camps Bay, Cape Town, KykNET Silwerskermfees has been called “the Cannes Film Festival of South Africa.” Filmmakers are invited to submit a proposal for a 26-minute short film. The best proposals are selected and then subjected to a three-week script development phase under the mentorship of two industry heavyweights. The scripts are then adjudicated and sponsorship is given to those chosen to turn their stories into visual masterpieces. These are then shown at the festival, as well as numerous full-length and documentary films.

More information: kyknet.dstv.com

 

10. Out In Africa – South African Gay and Lesbian Film Festival

When: September
Where: Cape Town and Johannesburg

This film festival was launched in 1994 to celebrate the inclusion of the clause prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in the South African Constitution. The screenings include a broad variety of both local and international gay and lesbian movies, which range from comedies to documentaries, feature films and shorts. The festival is hosted by Nu Metro Cinemas at the V&A Waterfont in Cape Town and Killarney Mall in Johannesburg.

More information: www.oia.co.za

 

11. Plett Food Film Festival

When: July
Where: Plettenberg Bay

Organised by Plett Tourism and iKasi Media, the Plett Food Film Festival are “starting small and simple” but “intend to grow the festival into a world-class, annual event.” 2015 saw several screenings of local and international films, followed by discussions and presentations, all on the theme of food.

More information: www.plett-tourism.co.za or find them on Facebook

 

12. Shnit International Short Film Festival

When: October
Where: Cape Town

Schnit Film Festival
 
Recognised as one of Europe’s biggest short film festivals, Shnit initially started in Switzerland in 2003 with the sole purpose of promoting short film making as an independent art form. Since then, it has expanded to seven other cities across five continents, including Cape Town.

More information: www.shnit.foundation

 

13. Short and Sweet

When: All year round
Where: Cape Town and Johannesburg

Short & Sweet take cinema out of the theatre and into the city with drive-in cinema experiences, rooftop and open-air screenings, silent cinema (wireless headphones) and more. Each of their short movie screenings is carefully curated to take you on a journey: creatively, personally and emotionally.

More information: www.shortandsweet.tv

 

14. Sound on Screen Music Film Festival

When: August
Where: Cape Town and Johannesburg

Sound On Screen Film Festival
 
The Sound on Screen Music Film Festival is an indie film festival dedicated to music-related feature films, documentaries and concert films. Screenings take place at The Labia Theatre in Cape Town and at The Bioscope in Johannesburg.

More information: www.flamedrop.com/sos

 

15. South African Eco Film Festival

When: March and April
Where: Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria and the Eastern Cape

The South African Eco Film Festival screens local and international ecological documentaries in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria and the Eastern Cape. The films shown explore a wide range of thought-provoking environmental topics, including animal farming, food wastage and deforestation. The festival also includes an Eco Kids Film Initiative, which features a collection of films aimed at educating children about their environment.

More information: www.southafricanecofilmfestival.com

 

16. South African HorrorFest

When: October and November
Where: Cape Town and Johannesburg

HorrorFest Film Festival
 
Horror movie fans can enjoy rare and gory flicks at this annual festival, aptly screened over Halloween. Each year, The Makabra Ensemble, a group of artists who play multiple instruments, create new and diverse soundtracks to accompany classic silent films and they perform live while the silver screen does its thing. Movie-goers are also encouraged to dress up on 31 October with prizes up for grabs. Screenings take place at The Labia Theatre in Cape Town and The Bioscope in Johannesburg.

More information: www.horrorfest.info

 

17. Sunshine Cinema

When: All year round
Where: Various locations across South Africa

Although not essentially a festival, the solar-powered Sunshine Cinema screens short films and documentaries in community venues such as school halls, libraries, community centers or containers. Find them anywhere from Rocking The Daisies to Prince Albert.

More information: www.sunshinecinema.org

 

18. Wavescape Surf Film Festival

When: July and December
Where: Cape Town and Durban

Wavescape Film Festival
 
The Wavescape Festival was born of a love of surfing and ocean culture and anyone who shares that love should not miss it. A variety of film, music and art events are presented in Durban (in conjunction with the Durban International Film Festival) during July and Capetonians get their turn in December (where the films are shown on Clifton Beach, among other locations).

More information: www.wavescapefestival.com

 

19. The X-Fest

When: April
Where: Cape Town and Johannesburg

Xtreme Fest
 
An underground and cult film festival, the X-Fest gives movie-goers the chance to view documentaries and features that tackle sub-culture topics like goths, vampires, tattoos and more. It also includes a number of band documentaries, horror films and South African premieres.

More information: www.xfest.org

 

Some quick film facts

Film making began in the 1890s, with the invention of motion picture cameras and the establishment of film production companies. The first films were under a minute long and, until 1927, motion pictures were produced without sound. The first feature length multi-reel film in the world was a 1906 Australian production called The Story of the Kelly Gang.

 
Happy viewing!

 

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