by ALYSSA KLEIN | OKAYAFRICA
While the stars of South Africa’s film industry arrived at the glamorous opening of the 37th Durban International Film Festival , it was the heated issue of arts’ role in perpetuating a culture of gender-based violence that had many on edge.
In the months leading up to the festival, rumours swirled among insiders over a controversy surrounding DIFF’s original opening night selection, South African filmmaker Oliver Schmitz’s apartheid-era death penalty drama, Shepherds and Butchers. But the film that took its place has brought even more controversy — leading to accusations that the nation’s largest film festival is promoting rape culture.
What makes DIFF’s decision to select the film for its opening night event was not so much the content of the film, but rather the actions of one of its auteurs. Mpongo, now 23, has had a flourishing start to his professional career. In 2015 he became the first South African chosen for the Magnum Foundation’s Human Rights Fellowship at New York University. He also documented the University of Cape Town’s historic #RhodesMustFall movement. Mpongo’s was the ultimate success story––a young man born in a rural town in the Eastern Cape rises from the streets of Langa to become an internationally-recognised artist.
CREATIVE – Photographer
Amouzou is inspired by the American photographer Francesca Woodman, but she creates her own distinctive and haunting imagery, which speaks of the contemporary issue of the displacement of people and those in exile. She works with film rather than digital media, preferring the effects of chance and serendipity and she exploits the use of long exposures, playing with the photographic medium to create ephemeral and ghostly self-portraits.
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In October of 2015, the University of Cape Town charged the photographer under their student code with sexual harassment and sexual assault of a classmate—a 19-year-old first-year art student who Mpongo followed into a ladies bathroom at UCT’s Hiddingh Campus and attempted to kiss. The student, who we spoke with but declined to comment, revealed to City Press that she’d heard from a total of 23 young women who told her Mpongo had sexually harassed them.
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