Stephen Aspeling, better known as “Spling,” has turned a lifelong passion into a full-time pursuit, reviewing, writing and judging film for a host of South African websites, radio stations, magazines and movie events.
“Good Evening, this is the third year I’ve been asked to officiate as part of the critic’s panel and once again I’ve been impressed by the standard of student films emerging from AFDA Film School.
It was great to see your short films on the big screen in an independent cinema like The Labia… especially after the grand Dame’s Facelift. This year’s graduate selection was diverse with entries across the genre spectrum. Generally-speaking, what I liked is that you worked within your constraints, keeping stories grounded and relatable. There weren’t any clear stand outs, but this is just testament to the high standard of quality achieved. After the festival finished, there so many excellent productions in the back of my mind, I couldn’t pinpoint which films would be shoe-ins for best picture nominations.
From aerial photography and amazing costume design to casting recognizable faces and broaching timely social issues… there was no limit in terms of resourcefulness and inspiration. This year’s productions were realistically ambitious, setting out achievable goals instead of simply taking chances. In a year characterized by social unrest and political upheaval, this fervor was channeled into productions speaking out on a variety of issues, most specially surrounding gender. These important messages show a generation of determined film-makers, who aren’t afraid to confront, by creating substantial stories and addressing serious issues using their craft.
The medium of film is powerful in shaping thoughts and creating social awareness, which makes film more than simply about entertainment and escapism. Last year’s festival was notable influenced by the work of other directors and while still somewhat prevalent, this year was underpinned by more self-driven storytelling. In the South African film industry, we’re praised by international film-makers for our technical precision and work ethic, but often criticized for not delivering the invisible goods when it comes to things like tone, character development and layered screenplays. I’m pleased to say that these key aspects have been addressed, given the necessary attention and it shows in terms of depth and maturity.
Congratulations to everyone involved in embracing the learning curve, bringing the magic and committing your stories to film, I wish you every success in the future.”
By: Stephen Aspeling “Spling,”