10th European Film Festival – Food For Thought

Oscar nominees, Cannes winners, and other thought-provoking films from Europe will be on show during the celebratory 10th edition of the European Film Festival in South Africa between 12 to 22 October this year.  The festival will showcase a select curation of 16 new films in cinemas in Johannesburg and Cape Town, with a limited special programme in Durban.

The Festival opens with the African–European film Goodbye Julia at Ster-Kinekor’s The Zone in Rosebank, Johannesburg on 12 October, and screens on 21 October at Gateway in Durban and 22 October at The Labia, Cape Town.

The European Film Festival 2023 is a partnership project of the Delegation of the European Union to South Africa; the participating European embassies of Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Italy, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Switzerland and Ukraine; and the cultural agencies of British Council, Camoes Institute of Portugal, Diplomatic Representation of Flanders, French Institute in South Africa, Goethe-Institut and Italian Cultural Institute.  The festival is organised in cooperation with Cineuropa, supported by Ster Kinekor, The Labia and coordinated by Creative WorkZone.

The fest offers 11 films online, see below.


20,000 SPECIES OF BEES (Spain)

“How come everyone knows who they are and I don’t?”

A richly textured chronicle of an 8-year-old’s gradual transitioning, and the effect it has on a family, is ultimately about tolerance and acceptance as much as it is a fascinating study of womanhood that extends beyond motherhood. Read more

At the film’s 2023 Berlinale premiere the young and endearing Sofia Otero won the Silver Bear for Best Leading Performance at the festival, while the film itself received the Prize of the Guild of German Art House Cinemas, and the Berliner Morgenpost Reader’s Jury Award.


A thriller of real psychological, intellectual, and emotional depth

With breathtaking contrasts and reversals, the sharpest of dialogues, and probably the most enthralling courtroom scenes ever, director Justine Triet offers up fluid, permeable ideas of the truth and moral ambiguity.   Sandra Huller is magnetic, formidable, and rivetingly authentic as this compelling psychodrama delves deep into marital power dynamics without losing its humanity.   Stepping up filmmaking standards with near-perfect craftwomanship, Anatomy of a Fall won the top prize at Cannes this year – the coveted Palm d’Or. Read more

AS IN HEAVEN  (Denmark)

Will a dream dictate life or death?  

In this coming-of-age drama, inspired by Marie Bregendahl’s 1912 novel En dødsnat, we observe a dramatic, emotional event from Lise’s perspective.  Confronting the disastrous impact of superstition and ignorance head on, the film poignantly lays out the personal and social costs of exclusionist dogma, and how it poses a threat to individual lives and social progress in general. Read more

Winner of the Dragon Award for Best Nordic Film at the Göteborg Film Festival, As in Heaven is both about woman-centered experience and how the growing-up process for children can be bewildering as well as joyful.

CLOSE  (Belgium)

An astonishingly well-observed coming-of-age drama

Leo and Remi are two thirteen-year-old best friends, whose close friendship is thrown into disarray when their schoolmates notice their intimacy, causing a rift between them. When their seemingly unbreakable bond is suddenly, tragically torn apart, Leo struggles to understand what has happened.  Close is an emotionally transformative and unforgettable portrait of the intersection of friendship and love, identity and independence, and heartbreak and healing.  Read more

Interview with writer-director Lukas Dhont

I put down a few words on paper: friendship, intimacy, fear, masculinity… and Close emerged from that. The screenplay then began to take shape following conversations with Angelo Tijssens (my writing partner on Girl).

The story is essentially based on the rupture of an intimate relationship and the ensuing sense of responsibility and guilt. In some respects it’s the start of the journey towards adolescence. I really wanted to speak about that heavy burden we carry when we feel responsible about something but are unable to talk about it.

There’s something of me in both characters, although the way I tend to see things is more pronounced in Léo. Rémi, on the other hand, represents those people who tried to stay true to themselves.

The book Deep Secrets by psychologist Niobe Way helped me to understand that I wasn’t the only young gay boy who grew up struggling with the intimate aspect of friendship.

EO (Poland)

A road movie with a difference

Legendary Polish director Jerzy Skolimowski tells the fascinating and often harrowing fable of a donkey named EO, whose life becomes uncertain after losing his circus home.   This donkey’s-eye view of the world sees mankind in all its madness; the laughter and the cruelty; the kindness and the killing; the love and the hatred intertwined.  With breathtaking imagery and a bare minimum of dialogue, EO is a donkey-driven drama that’ll stubbornly stick with you long after the credits roll. Read more

GOLDEN YEARS (Switzerland)

Coming-of-age can come at any time!

Humorous and light-hearted on one hand this film is also refreshingly honest and insightful on the other. Newly retired, Alice and her husband Peter are ready to finally enjoy their life as pensioners. But their pent-up marital problems bubble to the surface on a cruise trip through the Mediterranean. This is the story of an elderly couple on journeys of self-discovery and how they find unexpected ways to spend their golden years.  One surprise follows another as we see that growing old is not for sissies! Read more

GOODBYE JULIA (Co-Production: Sudan, Egypt, Germany, France, Sweden, Saudi Arabia)

A drama that brings to life the complex issues of racism, discrimination, and secession in Sudan.

Supported by superb cinematography by South African Pierre de Villiers, it tells the story of two women who represent the complicated relationship and differences between northern and southern Sudanese communities. The multi-layered narrative takes place in Khartoum during the last years of Sudan as a united country, shortly before the 2011 separation of South Sudan.  Mona, an upper-middle-class former popular singer from the North, who lives with her husband Akram, seeks to attenuate her feelings of guilt for causing the death of a Southern man by employing Julia, his unsuspecting widow, as her maid. Read more

IL BOEMO (THE BOHEMIAN)  (Czech Republic)

A strong biopic that has something to say about musical creativity and opportunity

Admired by Mozart, forgotten by history.  Czech migrant Josef Mysliveček became one of the most acclaimed and prolific opera composers in eighteenth-century Italy.  This is the story of an artist able to charm the most demanding of audiences, the most famous performers, the impresarios, and even monarchs themselves.  Petr Václav’s episodic script includes Mysliveček’s life as a cosmopolitan playboy interloper in Italian high society, breaking hearts along his adventurous and turbulent way. Read more


There is a brighter future for Ukraine, in a time beyond war!

Adapted from a 1911 play by the legendary writer, activist, and feminist Lesya Ukrainka, this enchanting animation carries unmistakable messages that apply to the current times, with an assortment of good guys and bad guys.  Humans are in conflict with the forest dwellers over the source of Life.  When young and naive forest spirit Mavka develops feelings for a human musician, Lukas, she is forced to choose between her love and her duty as a guardian of the forest. We see that the spark of rage has a costly price.  We are in need of a Forest Song. Will it lead to Peace? Read more

MIKADO (Romania)

With relationships now broken it’s time for everyone to face up to their own traumas.

With an incisive Kafkanian approach, director Emanuel Pârvucleverly unwraps a complicated situation, full of hovering ambiguities and power dynamics.  Raising questions about moral and possibly criminal responsibility, Mikado evolves from a minor family drama to a serious social drama. Teenager Magda offers her expensive necklace to a sick child, bringing her into conflict with her controlling father who is certain she is lying again. Faced with the truth, he feels ashamed and guilty but is incapable of admitting he was wrong. Read more

MOTHER (Bulgaria)

A poignant and balanced portrayal of the complexities and challenges of motherhood

At the young age of 32 theatre director Elena’s desire to become a mother seems impossible.  In an attempt to find new meaning, she develops a life-transforming theatre programme for Bulgarian orphans.  An opportunity to work with orphans in Kenya arises and Elena faces a choice between her dream of having a child of her own and helping hundreds of orphans to start dreaming.   Instead of a family of three, Elena may have gained a much larger one.  Finding her own way, Elena will redefine the word “mother”. Read more

NARCOSIS   (The Netherlands)

A moving universal story about love and loss

A close-knit family is disrupted when the adventurous, eccentric and fun father fails to resurface during a dive in one of the world’s deepest underwater caves (in the Karoo, South Africa).  No funeral, no goodbye, just a quirky old house full of memories.  Merel evades her husband’s death and prefers not to use her psychic abilities to try and communicate with him.  Her young children meanwhile become entangled in their own search for answers as the family grapples to face the loss and start a new life together in their own unique ways. Read more

NAYOLA (Portugal)

A painful secret, a reckless search, a combat song, a suspended love, and an initiatory journey. 

Rich and riveting visuals and a touch of magic-realism combine with a compelling narrative told entirely from a female point of view to great emotive effect.  Based on a play by acclaimed writers José Eduardo Agualusa and Mia Couto, past and present interlace in this animation set in Angola and featuring three generations of women plagued by the long civil war. Nayola (the daughter) goes in search of her missing husband at the height of the war and has not yet returned. Yara (the granddaughter) has become a rebellious teenager and subversive rap singer. Lelena (the grandmother) tries to contain her for fear of the police coming to arrest her. What next…?! Read more


An epic journey of friendship and self-discovery

Adapted from the novel of the same name by Paolo Cognetti, it follows across four decades the profound, complex relationship between Pietro and Bruno.  After meeting as children over a series of summers, Pietro and Bruno reunite as adults to build a mountainside cottage which becomes a site of both reflection and reconciliation.  Marked by mystery, passion, and rivalry along the way, this bittersweet drama is ultimately about a search for a shared purpose for two individuals traveling divergent paths on the vertiginous terrain of life. Read more

THE OLD OAK (United Kingdom)

A timely story about modern Britain, immigration, and xenophobia. 

Legendary filmmaker Ken Loach is known for tackling social issues such as poverty, homelessness, and labor rights, all of which contextualize the background of this story set in a village in the Northeast of England where the mine closed, people feel deserted by the system, and there is growing anger, resentment, and a lack of hope.  Houses are cheap and available thus making it an ideal location for the Syrian refugees that have been accepted by Britain in recent years.  How will the Syrians be received? And what will be the future of the last remaining pub in the village, The Old Oak? Read more


Tightly packaged and crackling with tension, The Teachers’ Lounge is about a lot of things — conformity, rebellion, racism, optics, and intergenerational mistrust. 

When one of her students is suspected of theft the young sports and math teacher Carla Nowak decides to get to the bottom of the matter on her own. Idealistic, sympathetic, and committed to her students, Carla tries to mediate between outraged parents, opinionated colleagues, and aggressive students but is relentlessly confronted with prejudice, cliquey dynamics and divisions, and the strictures of the school system. Things escalate rather quickly and dramatically, not always the way Carla intends.  Read more