At yesterday’s DIFF screenings, Luke Smith was made to ask questions after watching Faust and Bob Perfect was inspired by the human spirit thanks to The African Cypher and United States of Africa.


Faust reviewed by Luke Smith

Loitering outside the cinema while watching the bemused and bleary-eyed walk past I got the opportunity to test out my opinions/theories on what I had just seen. An elderly couple approached the group I was apart of and put forward a simple question: “So what was that about hey?”. Here I go I thought, a chance to get my film critic mask on before I eventually have to sit down and attempt to write it out. Roughly a minute later I was as lost and confused as the look on the couples face. It was on the drive home that, alone in the car, I had the time to gather my thoughts and think of how best to explain what I had just seen.
To steal a phrase from the film, I traditionally see movies unfold as an onion would. The layers are peeled back and removed as the film goes and it’s ‘core’, or message, is eventually revealed. In Alexander Sokurov’s Faust, the onion is reversed. The fourth and last in Sokurov’s tetralogy, you’re presented with the core at the beginning, and as Faust’s quest for transcendent knowledge begins, the layers that drive him are slowly but surely wrapped onto that core. At the end of it, as he wanders alone and lost into the hellish wasteland ahead of him, what’s left is the onion, now whole, and the questions around it. Was it Faust’s unyielding obsession with the luminous Gretchen that drove him to his doom? Or was he always destined to his dalliance with the devil and final plight?

Visually, the soft sepia tones and banal, bored setting of a small town middle European life in the 19th century contrast sharply with the psilocybin-esque blurs and intense lo-fi score that reveal Faust’s breaking psyche as he journeys with Mephistopheles. While the Austrian Ralph Fiennes, Johannes Zeiler, is solid in the titular role, you feel it’s Anton Adasinky, in his portrayal of the freakish Pan-like, trickster devil who guides and ultimately succeeds in stealing Herr Doktor’s ‘soul’, that steals the show. Overall, Sokurov has created a film that combines the original Faust tales, steeped in mysticism, alchemy and devilish deals, with a more modern and contemporary heart, expounding on and exploring beyond Goethe’s 200 year old interpretation. The film may be set in the early 1800s but the ideas that are explored are as recent and prevalent as ever. It’s a film that leaves you with as many questions as answers, but it’s questions you occasionally need to ask.


United States Of Africa – Beyond Hip-Hop and The African Cypher reviewed by Bob Perfect.


Last night saw me catching a double bill with African in the title, and although United States Of Africa (Beyond Hip-Hop) and The African Cypher are worlds apart, they both left me feeling inspired by the people of this continent.


United States Of Africa was up first and I really didn’t know what to expect going into it. I was hoping for a film about hip-hop and its ability to unite and move people, and in a way it is, but it was also very much, like the title suggests, about the idea of Africa as one unified country. The film follows Didier Awiba, a rapper from Senegal, as he records his album, African Presidents. He travels the world to source speeches and lost parts of African political history as well as to collaborate with other artists, most notably, Dead Prez’s M1. Other than my white guilt, M1 was probably the worst part of the film for me. When put with Awiba and his friend from Burkina Faso, Smockey, M1 comes across as lacking sincerity. While the film deals heavily with the idea of African Nationalism, which is something that I can try and understand but naturally don’t feel myself, for me, the way these men speak up against their governments in times when it’s dangerous to do so is what was inspiring. After watching Smockey give acknowledgement to Thomas Sankara in an award acceptance speech in front of the current president of Blaise Compaoré, who many believe killed Sankara and who more are scared to speak out against, I consider him to be one of the ballsiest men in music.Yet both Smockey and Awiba are humble in their plights to inspire and motivate people to change Africa – to make it the beautiful success that we know it all can be. That’s what I loved about the film, that will to change things and to encourage people to stand up for what’s right by being examples of it themselves.



If you read our DIY Guide To DIFF then you know I was looking forward to catching Brian Little’s latest documentary, The African Cypher, and I certainly wasn’t the only one. It takes a fair amount of hype to nearly pack out a movie theatre at 22:15, on a Monday night, in Durban. Judging by the multiple rounds of applause after the film, the hype was deserved. The film follows multiple street dance crews from South Africa in the lead up to the Red Bull Beat Battle, but that’s really an afterthought and only features at the end of the film. It mostly focuses on the two man Pantsula dance crew, Shakers and Movers. The film opens with Brian meeting Prince in his home in Soweto and Brian tells us that he has a feeling that by the time the film is done, Prince is going to tell us something beautiful and true. He does. He actually says many beautiful and true things throughout the film. When Prince says that when he looks in the mirror and sees a legend, but has fears and is trying to get confident in who he is, I  found myself relating to a Pantsula dancer from Soweto that used to be a thug so much that I teared up. The film doesn’t just focus on Prince and Mada and their relationship, it covers an impressive number of dance styles and crews as possible. Considering they were commissioned to create a couple two minute promo videos and created a full length documentary instead, it’s a truly remarkable achievement. The strength of the film to me is that whilst the dancing is impressive, the focus is on the people finding purpose in dance and rising above the negative situations around them. The relationships formed and the strength the crews give each other was more beautiful than the dancing itself. I went into the film looking to be moved and I was.

I have a feeling that the word I’m going to use most this DIFF is “inspiring”. Partially because my vocabulary is pretty crap, but mostly because the films I’ve watched so far document the strength of the human spirit facing adversity. I feel my cynicism slipping away one film at a time and there’s a good chance by the end of the week, I may actually smile sober . I’ll be at This Is Not A Film and The Art Of Flight tonight, both of which I’m hoping peel away another layer of my cynical self. There’s also Rockstardom at the Sneddon at 20:00, and at Suncoast, there’s The Greatest Movie Ever Sold at 20:00 and Whore’s Glory at 20:30, all of which have been recommend to or by me. We’re rarely this spoilt for choice, make the most of it.

2 Responses to “DIY Does DIFF”
  1. Jolling! says:

    I’d love to be able to afford to watch two movies a day. Shot for the keeping us in the loop, definitely going to catch The African Cypher.

  2. Pascal says:

    Awesome reading. Great reviews guys. <3

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