At the 34th Durban International Film Festival, audiences watching Felix laughed, cried and voted the feel-good South African family movie Best Film.
The audience award was announced at Southern Africa's premiere film festival on Saturday at the closing night event at the Suncoast CineCentre Cinema.
In Felix, 14-year-old Felix Xaba dreams of becoming a saxophonist like his late father, but his mother Lindiwe thinks jazz is the devil's music. When Felix leaves his township friends to take up a scholarship for grade eight at an elitist private school, he defies his mother and turns to two aging members of his father's old band to help him prepare for the school jazz concert.
Durban International Film Festival manager Peter Machen called Felix "a South African equivalent of Billy Elliott… a lovely, vibrant, feelgood film about a young township boy intent on following his dreams."
Felix‘s all-star cast includes Joburg-born Oscar-nominee Dame Janet Suzman in her first South African film; South African Film and Television Award (SAFTA) Best Actress winner Linda Sokhulu (Isidingo, Generations) in her feature debut; and newcomer Hlayani Junior Mabasa, who was cast in the title role from over 400 auditions across the country.
Felix was created by a predominantly female creative team, with SAFTA Lifetime Achievement winner Roberta Durrant directing; Natalie Haarhoff as the DOP; Shirley Johnston as the screenwriter; Kate Schalk as the line producer; Surisa Surisa as the art director; Ayesha Khatieb as the wardrobe stylist; Islyn Goliath as the hair and makeup artist; and Maryke Kruger as the editor. This makes Felix the first South African film written, directed, shot, edited and line produced by women since democracy.
Shirley's acclaimed script won Sithengi's Writer's Forum Award; was a finalist in the US Specscriptacular Competition; and was a quarter-finalist in both Francis Ford Coppola's American Zoetrope Screenplay Contest and the Moondance Screenwriting Competition.
Musical director Murray Anderson, who has recorded Gold and Platinum records for the likes of Abdullah Ibrahim, worked closely on the infectious jazz soundtrack with former Standard Bank Young Artists of The Year Mark Fransman and Bokani Dyer, as well as triple 2012 South African Music Awards nominee Lwanda Gogwana.
Felix is a Penguin Films production for Sabido Productions, distributed by Crystal Brook Distribution. Felix will be released in 40 cinemas across Southern Africa on 13 September 2013.