Unomalanga and the Witch
A friendship between two very different women turns into a love affair in Palesa Shongwe's Unomalanga and the Witch.

A Kafkaesque story about a toilet in the middle of the Egyptian desert, and a story about an unlikely love affair between two very different women, were the short film award winners at the 2015 Durban International Film Festival (DIFF).

The Best African Short Film award went to Egyptian Omar el Zohairy's The Aftermath of the Inauguration of the Public Toilet at Kilometre 375, while the Best South African Short Film award went to Palesa Shongwe's Unomalanga and the Witch.

Both awards, and accompanying cash prizes of R20 000 each, were sponsored by the Gauteng Film Commission (GFC).

The DIFF jury described Omar El Zohairy's 18-minuter as an "exceptional film [which] explores and pushes new avenues in political satire and the cinema", and Palesa Shongwe's 26-minuter as "a gentle and unexpected film [that] sheds light on the subtleties of relationships between women".

Unomalanga and the Witch tells the story of a young church-going woman who moves with her husband into a new neighbourhood, where she becomes intrigued with her neighbour, a widowed hairdresser who is rumoured to have used witchcraft to murder her husband.

When a friendship between them unexpectedly develops into a love affair, "turbulent currents of desire, fear, guilt and an unknown joy threaten to overcome uNomalanga's otherwise still-water world", and two very different women are forced to address "the implications of their connection in a world that will not readily forgive their transgressions".

The film was written and directed by Shongwe under the auspices of the National Film and Video Foundation and Blingola Media's Female Only Filmmaker Project, which gives female entrants into the industry, particularly those from historically disadvantaged backgrounds, the opportunity to make a film in collaboration with other women.

The GFC had a strong presence at DIFF 2015. Besides its sponsorship of the two short film awards, the Commission enabled 11 emerging Gauteng filmmakers to attend the Talents Durban component of the festival, and four Gauteng trainers to participate in the Business Model Canvas workshops that took place during the Durban FilmMart.

It also funded the screening of six Gauteng-made films, three of which featured strongly among the festival's award winners:

  • Necktie Youth, the groundbreaking debut feature from 23-year-old Sibs Shongwe-La Mer, won both the best director and best South African feature film awards.
  • The Shore Break, a documentary about a local community polarized by plans to mine titanium on the Eastern Cape Wild Coast, won both the DIFF Audience Award and the Amnesty International Durban Human Rights Award.
  • A new award, the Production Merit Award, sponsored by Hollard carrying a R25 000 cash prize, went to Rights of Passage, an anthology of eight short films by young first-time filmmakers Ntombizodwa Magagula, Mapula Sibanda, Lerato Moloi, Valencia Joshua, Zandile Angeline Wardle, Tony Miyambo, Rethabile Mothobi, and Yashvir Bagwandeen.

Source: staff reporter

Contact the Gauteng Film Commission