South African Film Festival Returns This May

Rebecca Varidel
11th Apr 2024

From 2 to 30 May 2024, the South African Film Festival (SAFF) will once again bring the very best of contemporary South African film to Australian and New Zealand audiences, both in-cinema and online.

April marks 30 years since the first democratic election in South Africa when for the first time in the country’s history, all citizens could vote for their future.

To mark this auspicious occasion, SAFF 2024 features some iconic films from the past 30 years, including close-to-the-bone classic documentaries like 1994: The Bloody Miracle, and the story of how South Africa’s 1995 Rugby World Cup win galvanised and united the nation, The 16th Man.

A highlight of this year’s festival is undoubtedly Oliver Schmitz’s masterpiece, Mapantsula, restored to 4K glory and featured on the big screen for a new generation. This gritty gangster film is set against the backdrop of rebellion against the apartheid regime and, upon its release in 1987, was banned after just one screening for inciting violence. Honoured by a screening in the Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes Film Festival in 1988, Mapantsula is recognised as having a seminal influence on public opinion against apartheid.

More than just a celebration of cinematic art, all profits from SAFF support the amazing work of Education without Borders (EwB). EwB provides life-changing educational programmes for school students from socially disadvantaged communities in and around Cape Town. By supporting SAFF and EwB, you are empowering young South Africans to reach their full potential and create a better future for themselves.

Festival Co-Director Operations & Marketing, Collins Rex said, “What a year for SAFF! As South Africa celebrates 30 years of democracy, we have the unique opportunity to look back over those 30 years and forward to a new future – all through the lens of our remarkable filmmakers. SAFF truly represents the soul of a nation.”

These sentiments were reiterated by Festival Co-Director Programming & Events, Ricky Human, who said, “Every year, we take great pride in celebrating the inspiring stories of some of the most prestigious South African filmmakers, as well as the fresh and exciting new voices that emerge. However, this year is truly special as we reflect on the 30th anniversary of the first democratic elections in South Africa, and honour exceptional filmmakers like Oliver Schmitz, and heroic figures like George Bizos. We’re excited to be joined by George Bizos’ son, Alexi, and the Producer of the film, George Georgiou, who will be attending select screenings in Australia and New Zealand and participating in panel discussions.”

The South African Film Festival opens on 02 May with an in-cinema screening of the highly entertaining The Umbrella Men in Sydney, and on 03 May in Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane and Auckland. This rollicking tale of a ragtag bunch of musicians who are forced to rob a bank during the Cape Town Minstrel Carnival will appeal to a wide-ranging audience, and it has achieved critical acclaim for Director John Barker.

This year SAFF is delighted to feature the documentary, George Bizos Icon. The film juxtaposes the personal and political sides of George’s life showing the tapestry of his life and his motivation in his work. It uses a public and never-before-seen archive, his family’s 8mm and still archive, interviewing notables, colleagues, and family, engaging the viewer to the end.

SAFF features a total of eight documentaries, including The Radical, an intimate portrait of the world’s first openly gay Imam. And one that will have sports lovers experiencing the pain and the glory that is the iconic Ultra Marathon, Down, a Comrades Story.

SAFF’s 2024 documentaries offer up deeply-personal stories –Reflections in a Broken Mirror and True Patriot – and bring hope for a better future – The Last Seed.

There are five exceptional feature films on offer, including Seconds, a gripping tale of crime, deceit, and betrayal set in the dark world of underground boxing. Hans Steek die Rubicon Oor (Hans Crosses the Rubicon) is a light-hearted comedy that tackles the subject of aging and stars some of the luminaries of South African screen and stage, including Tobie Cronje and Sandra Prinsloo. Starring the legendary Desmond Dube, Soccer Season: Playmaker rounds out the features offering by providing good old-fashioned entertainment.

The 11 short films in the festival line-up offer a poignant mix of magic and hope, trauma and survival. They range from the delightful Riel that gives audiences a glimpse into the ancient cultural traditions of the San, preserved and practiced today through the “riel dans” (riel dance), to Volle Bors (Bare), the story of a woman grappling with the decision to undergo a double mastectomy to prevent breast cancer. There’s a deeply personal look at living an authentic transgender life (I Am Sheriff), true crime (The Gooseberry Grandmother’s Daughter), social commentary (Bergie and A Performance on Femininity), fighting for justice (I am this Water), and intriguing science fiction (Awake). Mbkodo (The Rock) will leave audiences reeling as it offers a brutal, but unassuming look at child abuse, while Coach and Father’s Day bring joy.

SAFF runs from 2 to 30 May, in select cinemas and online. Tickets are now on sale.

For the full Festival program and tickets visit