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Schuster goes back to his roots with 'Schuks! Your Country Needs You'

South African funnyman, Leon Schuster, is returning to his candid camera roots with his new film, Schuks! Your Country Needs You (Movie Review). Schuster and his team have been making South Africans laugh for decades with his over-the-top mix of character sketch and candid comedy. The runaway box office success of his Mr. Bones series not only landed him among the likes of Titanic, but also led to him signing a distribution deal with The Walt Disney Company Africa. Patriotic to the core, a man of the people and still probably not on speaking terms with Naas Botha, Schuster has built an empire on laughter in possibly the most diverse country in the world.

While he's developed a loyal following, his last film Mad Buddies, was not as well-received by critics or audiences as his previous film, Schuks Tshabalala's Survival Guide to South Africa. There were reports of piracy at the time of its release, but it wasn't the money-spinner they'd hoped for, failing to clinch top spot at the box office. So for now, candid camera still seems to be his best party trick.

And how do you improve on an old party trick? You spice it up by adding some fresh faces in stage and screen comedian, Rob Van Vuuren and newcomer Laré Birk to the long-running Leon Schuster and Alfred Ntombela tag team. Schuster's "excited to deliver some much-needed laughter to South African audiences" and is willing to "get 'klapped' a few times" to make it happen.

Co-writer and director, Gray Hofmeyr, is thrilled to be working on the eighth Schuster film and convinced "that this one has more, bigger and better pranks than we ever dared pull off before". While the laugh-a-minute format has become something of a staple, the film-makers are confident that Schuks! Your Country Needs You is going to make a welcome return to the big screen in November, 2013.

Durban International Film Festival 2013

The Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) returns for its 34th year to celebrate global cinema. From 18 to 28 July, Durban will be the hub for over 250 screenings comprising: 72 feature films, 48 documentaries and 45 short films at 11 venues. The festival also offers a comprehensive workshop and seminar programme that facilitates the sharing of knowledge and skills by film industry experts.

This year's opening film is the ground-breaking African-noir work Of Good Report by Jahmil XT Qubeka, telling the story of a serial killer obsessed with beautiful young girls. This year's South African film showcase includes: Layla Fourie, The Forgotten Kingdom which is set in Lesotho, Felix, about a young township musician, and The Good Man, an intriguing look at a globalised reality. Other SA films include: Ian Robert’s Everyman's Taxi, Andrew Worsdale's long-awaited Durban Poison, Khumba, from animation studio Triggerfish. Blood Tokoloshe, Actorholic by Oliver Rodge (Copposites), and African Gothic based on the Reza de Wet play, Diepe Grond.

Audiences can expect some superb European films, including Sally Potter’s Ginger and Rosa, Michael Winterbottom’s The Look of Love and Bernardo Bertolucci’s Me and You, his first film in more than a decade. There is a strong showcase of American independent films at this year's DIFF including Wrong the latest film from Quentin Dupieux who gave us the DIFF cult-hit Rubber in 2011 and Spring Breakers from Harmony Korine. Francine tells the small and delicately drawn story of a socially inept woman who has just come of out prison, while The Place Beyond the Pines is the highly anticipated new drama from director Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine). Then, the long-awaited remake of Evil Dead will headline a selection of zombie films.

From Chinese director Wong Kar Wai comes The Grandmaster, which opened Berlin this year, while Canadian director David Cronenberg descends once more into the darkness with Cosmopolis based on the Don deLillo novel. Takeshi Kitano, the king of stylised violence, delivers Outrage Beyond, while the enigmatic Closed Curtain comes from banned Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi. Deepa Mehta gives us a gorgeously sprawling rendition of Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children while Danish director Thomas Vinterberg's The Hunt will chill you to the bone. Then there's the exciting news that Ashgar Farhadi, whose A Separation won both the best Foreign Picture Oscar this year as well as best film at DIFF 2012, returns with his latest film The Past.

Principal screening venues include: Suncoast Cinecentre, Ster Kinekor Musgrave, Cinema Nouveau Gateway, Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre and Ekhaya Multi-Arts Centre in KwaMashu. Programme booklets with the full screening schedule and synopses of all the films and ticket prices will be available free at cinemas, and other outlets.

Neill Blomkamp's Elysium...

South African writer-director, Neill Blomkamp, burst onto the scene in 2009 with District 9, turning Johannesburg into the location for an epic man versus alien science fiction thriller. The film performed at the box office and garnered a number of impressive nods during awards season, which made District 10 an obvious follow-up. It was not to be and after a strange teaser trailer, his latest $100 million project entitled Elysium, has been steadily gearing up for its August 2013 release date.

The official Elysium movie trailer gives us a good idea of what to expect in terms of production values, story line and overall entertainment. Elysium is set in the year 2154 and from what we can see, the film's central conflict will be between the haves, living on a man-made space station, and the have-nots, relegated to a wasteland Earth. Max (Damon) is forced to break into Elysium to save his life after an accident requires special medical technology reserved for the excessively wealthy. To complete his mission, Max is outfitted with a suit that boosts his strength and his chances, but his efforts are jeopardised by a dangerous mercenary, played by Sharlto Copley (pictured below).

Sharlto Copley in Elysium

The film's star, Matt Damon, is a very bankable Hollywood actor and if his reputation is anything to go by, we can expect a smart, well-rounded and meaty science-fiction blockbuster to rival District 9. While Damon's trying to save the world as we know it, South Africans will be secretly rooting for Sharlto Copley, who will be returning to the big screen after roles in District 9 and The A-Team. Apart from District 9's Sharlto Copley, Damon's supported by a mix of established to up-and-coming actors including: Jodie Foster, William Fichtner and Alice Braga.


How To Survive a Plague to feature at Encounters Film Festival...

The Oscar-nominated documentary, How To Survive a Plague, The New York Times‘ Best Film of 2012, tells the history of ACT Up and Treatment Action Group as they lobbied to turn AIDS from a death sentence into a manageable condition.

Through never-before-seen archive footage and current interviews, this acclaimed documentary follows the people that were at the forefront of saving the lives of millions. With no scientific training, these self-made activists infiltrated the pharmaceutical industry and helped identify promising new drugs, moving them from experimental trials into the hands of patients in record time.

There will be panel discussions after the screenings at The Bioscope in Johannesburg on 8 June 2013 at 7:30pm and Nu Metro V&A Waterfront in Cape Town on 9 June 2013 at 6:30pm.

Director, David France, be joined in discussion in Johannesburg by Judge Edwin Cameron, a human rights activist and award-winning author; and Nokhwezi Hoboyi, the project manager at Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW).

In Cape Town, France will discuss the themes of the film with Zackie Achmat, founder of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and co-director of Ndifuna Ukwazi; Vuyiseka Dubula, general secretary of the TAC and a representative in the South African National AIDS Council; and Barbara Hogan, South Africa’s former minister of Health and Public Enterprises who is now the chair of the Western Cape Development Partnership and a director at Hosken Consolidated Investments.

The Shining Girls to be adapted by Leonardo DiCaprio's Appian Way

Lauren Beukes won science fiction's prestigious Arthur C. Clarke Award for Zoo City in 2011, her follow-up to the acclaimed debut, Moxyland. The South African author describes herself as the "writer of high concept thrillers" on Twitter and has a broad range of experience in the creative arts from writing novels, creating comic books and directing film. Armed with a lucid imagination, a penchant for the visceral and world-class talent, she's been able to carve out a niche for herself in pop culture at home and abroad.

When the strong concept of a time-traveling serial killer was announced, a film or television series was almost inevitable for The Shining Girls, which has been described as cross-over of The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo and The Time Traveler's Wife. Well, after dozens of glowing reviews (with more in the pipeline) and a tantalizing cinematic book trailer (below),  the rights to the novel have been bought by Appian Way, a company heralded by Leonardo DiCaprio.

The television series will be a collaboration with MRC, which produced House of Cards, and will undoubtedly mimic the trajectory of The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo, with a TV series making way for feature film or trilogy. Beukes was "freaking stoked" to announce the wonderful news, currently on the North American leg of her promotional tour, with the novel being released in the US on 4 June, 2013. Top Ten Movies with... Lauren Beukes

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