The prestigious Sydney Film Festival now has South African expertise to take it to greater heights, with the appointment of local programmer Nashen Moodley as its new director.
Moodley, the former film programmer of the Durban International Film Festival (DIFF), brings a wealth of experience to the Australian event, after a decade at the helm of the DIFF.
He says he is honoured by his appointment, “after spending the last decade immersed in the world of international film festivals, both as a programmer and industry attendee.”
Moodley says the Sydney festival has “a strong and diverse programme already in place. I will be acclimatising to it and tweaking it slightly.”
Sydney festival chairman Chris Freeland says Moodley’s appointment comes at a time when the festival is growing in leaps and bounds. In 2010 the event received US$3-million (R25-million) from the Australian government.
Freeland believes Moodley’s strong international connections and curatorial flair will ensure the festival continues to present the best films and filmmakers from around the world, while highlighting the great films and talent of the Australian industry.
The Sydney Film Festival is the longest running event of its kind, starting off in 1954. It runs for two weeks every year with the next event scheduled for 6 – 17 June 2012.
In its more than 50 years of existence the festival has played an important role in boosting the industry. It flights new films and supports budding film-makers, as well as showcasing films from across the globe.
In 2011 the festival screened 161 films from 42 countries. These included features, documentaries, short films, retrospectives, and films for families and animation.
Patrons include actresses Cate Blanchett and Nicole Kidman and directors Baz Luhrmann and Jane Campion.
Moodley is excited by the move, but is sad to be leaving South Africa.
The fast talking 33-year-old will remain closely connected to African cinema and filmmakers, and will continue to support the DIFF, an event he has attended since his university years.
He takes up his post in January 2012 and will immediately start scouting for films for the 2012 festival. First stop is the Sundance Film Festival, in Utah, US, followed by the Berlin Film Festival in Germany.
Getting into the film industry
While Moodley now lives a jet-set lifestyle, travelling around the world attending film festivals and meeting influential filmmakers and actors, this happened by chance.
The English and philosophy graduate from the University of KwaZulu-Natal was writing arts and culture articles for a newspaper when he was asked to stand in for a film critic.
Moodley immediately fell in love with his new role. He got to watch hundreds of movies, something he really enjoyed.
“Film critiquing is a very intricate job. You have to look at the film from the audience’s perspective,” Moodley explains. Although the technical expertise, special effects and budget play a huge role in creating the film, the bottom line is whether audiences like what they see.
He has reviewed films for several South African publications including GQ, The Sunday Independent and The Mail & Guardian online, and is still the film critic for The Sunday Tribune.
Raising the bar in film programming
Moodley’s professionalism and industry knowledge has been lauded by Peter Rorvik, the director of the Centre of Creative Arts at KwaZulu-Natal University. Rorvik, who is also the director of DIFF, says: “Nashen has established a reputation as an astute and world-respected film programmer.”
His departure is a great loss to DIFF, but “a big step into the international arena,” Rorvik adds.
Moodley played a pivotal role in the management and growth of the DIFF and the South African film industry in general. He was also instrumental in setting up the Durban FilmMart, a programme that helps young film makers pitch projects to leading financiers.
He has vast international experience: as a consultant at the International Film Festival Rotterdam in the Netherlands; a director of Asia and Africa programmes for the Dubai International Film Festival since 2005; and advisor for India’s International Film Festival of Kerala, South Korea’s Busan International Film Festival and Africala in Mexico.
One exciting project was curating the first South African Film Festival in Tehran, Iran, in 2006.
“In Tehran I met my favourite filmmaker, Jafar Panahi.” Moodley says he misses Panahi, who was placed under house arrest for making a film about unrest after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s June 2009 disputed re-election.
The highlight of his career has been flying South Africa’s flag, promoting films by young local filmmakers such as Jahmil Qubeka’s Small Town Called Descent and State of Violence by Khalo Matabane, which is currently on circuit in South Africa.