A documentary feature film co-directed, co- filmed and co-produced by the CHR documentary film course convenor Francois Verster with fellow filmmaker Simon Wood, has just garnered the Best South African Documentary Award at the 2022 Durban International Film Festival.
This is the third time that this prize, which makes the film eligible for the 2023 Academy Awards, has been awarded to Verster: his films THE MOTHERS’ HOUSE and THE DREAM OF SHAHRAZAD won in 2006 and 2015 respectively, and his film SEA POINT DAYS garnered a Special Jury nod in 2009.
Co-produced with Soilsiu Films in Ireland, GIRL, TAKEN tells the incredible story of two parents whose baby was stolen at birth, who miraculously found her 17 years later, and who then lost her again. In April 1997 the baby daughter of Celeste and Morne Nurse, whom they named Zephany, was stolen from hospital three days after her birth in Cape Town, April 1997. For 17 years, the devastated couple searched for Zephany – until in 2015 their second daughter, Cassidy, enrolled in a new school, where other pupils pointed out her likeness to an older pupil, Miche Solomon, whom DNA samples confirmed was the missing Zephany, and whom incredibly had grown up only a few miles from the Nurse’s home. While the Nurses were overjoyed and became media darlings around the world, the arrest and trial of the seamstress whom Miche knew as her loving mother however devastated her – and ultimately she chose to remain with the kidnapper’s family rather than her biological parents. The film follows the process of two broken families climbing the difficult path towards forgiveness and wholeness.
GIRL, TAKEN was funded by Abacus Media, M-Net, Screen Ireland, the MEDIA Creative Europe programme and the Irish Section 481 Tax Incentive Scheme. It is being streamed on Paramount Plus in the UK and Germany, and has garnered wide attention in the popular UK and US press, including outlets such as Newsweek, USA Today, The Sun, Heat Magazine, The Daily Mirror and Metro. It will be released in cinemas in Cape Town and Johannesburg at the end of September and will screen on M-Net from early 2023.
Released concurrently with GIRL, TAKEN is AFRICAN MOOT, directed by Shameela Seedat, and produced, co-filmed and co-edited by Verster. This feature documentary follows four law student teams from across Africa as they travel to Botswana to compete at the prestigious African Human Rights Moot Competition, the largest mock court competition in Africa. At the competition, these young aspirant lawyers act as both prosecution and defense in a cutting-edge human rights fictional court case, each hoping to win the case and bring back the trophy to their home country. This year’s case focuses on the rights of refugees, providing a keen insight into how brilliant young future lawmakers negotiate issues of pan-Africanism and migration across the continent.
The film was funded by the National Film and Video Foundation, the Heinrich Boell Foundation, the Deutsche Welle Akademie, the University of Pretoria Centre for Human RIghts, the Finnish Film Foundation, AVEK and YLE. It premiered at the prestigious Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Film Festival, the largest of its kind in North America, in April this year, and screenings since have included other prestigious festivals such as the Sydney International Film Festival, Munich Dok Fest and Durban International Film Festival. A US premiere at a top US documentary festival is scheduled for later in the year.
Both films had their South African premiere at the recent Encounters South African International Documentary FIlm Festival.
Reviews for Girl, Taken:
Reviews for African Moot