Review: Design Indaba Film Festival


Design Indaba Film FestWhere does notoriety end and fame begin? This year, Design Indaba Film Festival presents a selection of features which challenge us to confront our perception of fame, infamy and talent in the art world.

The festival, currently running at Labia On Orange, is bursting with a selection of films featuring some of the contemporary world’s most talented artists, from architects to puppeteers, fashion designers to comic strip artists.

Art and Craft is the story of one of the most prolific and talented art forgerers, Mark Landis, who sent the American art scene into turmoil. The self-proclaimed ‘philanthropist’ is shown as distant and monosyllabic at first, but the film progresses to reveal an artistic intellect and an engaging, if elusive, personality. Landis is shown with pragmatic panache, marshalling the detailed replication of famous classical art pieces with militaristic precision, matched only by the ferocious obsession of art sleuth Matt Leininger, who compiled the exhaustive dossier which forms the backbone of this fascinating documentary.

A different level of fame and talent is seen in another of the festival’s much-anticipated and riveting documentaries, Regarding Susan Sontag. Nancy D. Kates’ documentary is a profoundly detailed survey of the defiant intellectual and critic. This intimate reveal of Sontag’s creative psyche and inner circle is utterly riveting.
But one of the biggest attractions of the festival was its opening film, Big Eyes.  A motion picture directed by Tim Burton it stars Oscar nominee Amy Adams as Margaret Keane, who meekly secluded herself while the popularity of her big-eyed waifs was exploited by her agent. In a marked departure from his usual style, Burton has created a succinct psychodrama about one of the world’s most underrated painters and the friction between art and commerce.

Art and Craft, Big Eyes and Regarding Susan Sontag are three very different films, but each is ultimately a raw depiction of an individual artist’s passion and talents as seen in the light of art and commerce. The theme continues with new films showing every night until 1 March.

The independent Labia Theatre exudes an air of comfort and exclusivity and is the ideal setting for a festival of this calibre. Seating is limited and tickets are selling out very fast, so be sure to book in advance  to secure a place. It is to be hoped that the positive reception to this year’s Design Indaba Film Festival signals the need for a more elaborate and spacious venue to present next year’s instalment.

Benn van der Westhuizen

Design Indaba Film Festival is running at the Labia On Orange from 20 February to 1 March 2015

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