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Wednesday, July 30, 2014


(artSMart reviewer Pranesh Maharaj covered the recent Durban International Film Festival.)

(A shot from the film)

Letters to Zohra was meant to be more. It didn’t deliver. (Review by Pranesh Maharaj)

Letters to Zohra is directed by Saskia Vredeveld with cinematographers Brian Green and Adam Asmal.

No film or documentary is subject to a specific structure, no matter what the academics say. However, it is necessary for the filmmaker to deliver on what was promised. Structure your doccie and decide what you want to deliver then do exactly that.

Letters to Zohra by Mr Kathrada was a mere device to tell some other story that Mr Kathrada has already told. Perhaps it was made to tell this great story to people in other countries who had no idea what happened back then. Or perhaps our film maker quickly put something together. I was expecting a very intimate and personal account of things. I wanted to know more about the man. About what made him tick? I didn’t get that.

I am aware that Mr Kathrada comes from a place where being secretive about what happened was key to survival. And many of the surviving cadres still live by that unwritten code; but as a film maker you have to know what buttons to push and if your efforts are met with a full stop, then show us that.

I watched this and found the Kathrada from his book, the books of others and the media. I found the Communist, the underground activist, the politician and the man with a great longing for peace, equality and truth through passive resistance who yet found himself amidst the MK. Don’t we all know this already? Letters to Zohra was meant to be more. It didn’t deliver. – Pranesh Maharaj

The 35th Durban International Film Festival is organised by the Centre for Creative Arts at the University of KZN (a special project of the Deputy Vice Chancellor of the College of Humanities, Cheryl Potgieter) with support from the National Film and Video Foundation, KZN Department of Economic Development & Tourism, KZN Film Commission, City of Durban, German Embassy, Goethe Institut, Industrial Development Corporation, KZN Department of Arts and Culture and range of other valued partners. Full information on