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10 unmissable films to see at the 2019 Joburg Film Festival

The Joburg Film Festival will be held at venues - Auto & General Theatre on the Square, Nelson Mandela Square, Ster-Kinekor Sandton City, Cinema Nouveau Rosebank, Maboneng's Bioscope and Kings Theatre in Alexandra - across Johannesburg. across Johannesburg from 19 to 24 November 2019.
This year’s lineup features 60 films from South Africa, the rest of Africa and the world.

To make your selection easier, here are 10 films that cannot be missed.

Harold Holscher’s 8

If you are looking for a local supernatural-flavoured horror film, writer-director Harold Holscher’s 8 takes us into the heart of a farm labourer who struggles to find peace in this place of sad memories, carrying a dark secret that constantly haunts him: a demon child with its insatiable appetite for human souls that weighs so heavily in the sack he carries everywhere with him. When a family settles down on the farm, their young daughter becomes a target of witchcraft and frightening revelations.

Bombay Rose

In the Indian animation film Bombay Rose, a red rose brings together three tales of impossible loves. The love between a Hindu girl and a Muslim boy. The love between two women. Love of an entire city for its Bollywood stars.

Gitanjali Rao chronicles the intimate yet collective struggles of people who migrate from small towns, seeking minimal life in the maximum city. Based on true events, the film explores the ruthlessness of a society where the love and life that reigns on the big screen can crush you in its mean streets.


In the bizarre Brazilian western Bacurau, a documentarian (Udo Kier) heads deep into the Brazilian outback to profile a small village that recently lost its matriarch in his latest film.

As his relationship with the locals grows, he witnesses their true selves coming to light and unpacks the unusual and mysterious secrets they have buried.

A Translator

The Cuban drama A Translator is based on a true story and tells of a professor of Russian literature at the University of Havana who is torn from the abstract world of academia and forced into the relentlessly real world of medicine when he is forced to work as a translator for child victims of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster when they're sent to Cuba for medical treatment.

And the birds rained down

The Canadian drama And the birds rained down is a story of intertwined destinies, where love can happen at any.

It explores the quiet life of three elderly hermits living deep in the woods that is shaken by the arrival of an octogenarian unjustly institutionalised all her life and a young photographer interviewing survivors of the area's deadliest forest fire.

Original Sin

Original Sin is the first feature film for female director Jean Lee who has been called “the most adventurous downtown playwright of her generation” by the New York Times.

An uptight politician walks in on his sexually-frustrated housewife’s seduction of a handsome modern artist, an absurd and hilarious battle of machismo and mind games ensues, all before dinner with the in-laws.


Ghost-Light is a supernatural comedy with a horrifying twist that tells the tale of a disgruntled actor who disregards the superstition surrounding Shakespeare’s Macbeth and unwittingly unleashes the play's legendary curse on the troupe, wreaking hilarious havoc on the entire company and risking their dreams of breakthroughs and big comebacks.


Based on his own life story, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s Farming charts the extraordinary journey of a young fostered Nigerian boy who, struggling to find an identity, falls in with a skinhead gang in 1980s England.

Told with brutal honesty, it is an unflinching autobiographical portrait of a young man who must battle the odds and realise that, in a world of hate, his toughest battle will be learning to love himself.

The White Line

Set in 1963, after the Old Location uprising which shook South West Africa, a black maid’s life is changed forever in The White Line when she encounters an Afrikaner police officer on a routine passbook check.

Their illicit love for each other grows over time through the letters they write to each other, and they endure many obstacles beyond their different skin colours. The White Line is an authentic Namibian story, that shows how apartheid laws were extended to the territory, prior to independence, under the South African administration.


Idris Elba’s directorial debut, Yardie, centres on the life of a young Jamaican man named D who has never fully recovered from the childhood murder of his older brother.

He considers abandoning his life of crime, but when he encounters the man who shot his brother, a bloody, explosive quest for retribution brings him into conflict with a vicious London gangster.

On the documentary front

If you are in the mood for a documentary, make sure to see Grace Jones: Bloodlight & Bami, which takes us on a holiday road trip across Jamaica, where Grace Jones’ family roots and the story of her traumatic childhood are uncovered; Aretha Franklin’s revelatory concert film Amazing Grace focuses on the spirit of the gospel music she came to perform in 1972 at the New Temple Baptist Mission church in Los Angeles; Where are you, João Gilberto? sets out in the footsteps of German writer Marc Fischer who obsessively searched for the legendary founding father of bossa nova, Brazilian musician João Gilberto; and Fanney Tsimong’s soulful documentary, My Culture, My Music, illustrates how music has always been a powerful tool within South African culture.

For a full listing of the 60 films that make up the Joburg Film Festival and for information on how to book tickets, visit

About Daniel Dercksen

Daniel Dercksen has been a contributor for Lifestyle since 2012. As the driving force behind the successful independent training initiative The Writing Studio and a published film and theatre journalist of 40 years, teaching workshops in creative writing, playwriting and screenwriting throughout South Africa and internationally the past 22 years. Visit

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