Audiences back local stories for Encounters Backsberg Audience Awards 2018

Life is Wonderful: Mandela’s Unsung Heroes won the international film award at the 2018 Backsberg Audience Awards

Local audiences got behind local stories at this year’s Encounters South African International Documentary Festival with the winning films voted by festivalgoers for the Backsberg Audience Award applauded for their take on South African politics, human rights and culture.

The 20th edition of the Festival saw several films demand repeat screenings and once again true stories resonated powerfully with passionate audiences, and so Encounters are delighted to confirm the winning films voted by non-fiction film enthusiasts themselves with joint 1st and 2nd places for our South African/African films and one clear winner for the International selection.

The joint winners of the 2018 Encounters Backsberg Audience Award for a South African/African film are:

The Fun’s Not Over: The James Phillips Story – The rollicking yet intimate portrait of poetic rocker James Phillips by Michael Cross.

Not in my Neighbourhood – Award-winning Cape Town filmmaker Kurt Orderson’s compelling exploration of the parallels of the current urban environments in three seemingly disparate cities: São Paulo, Cape Town and New York.

The outright winner of the Backsberg Audience Award for Best International Film is:

Life is Wonderful: Mandela’s Unsung Heroes – Former UK High Court Judge Nick Stadlen unearthed rare archival material to construct an intimate portrait of many of the lesser known participants at the Rivonia Treason Trial.

Sponsor, Simon Back of Backsberg Wines says, “This year’s award-winners were truly well-deserved. In terms of the festival itself, Backsberg couldn’t be prouder of the association as Encounters provides a necessary platform for critical dialogue in our society.”

Guest festival director Reggie Khanzi noted that this year’s 20th anniversary edition has been a unique one, saying, “On behalf the board of Encounters and staff I would like to express my sincere gratitude and appreciation to all the filmmakers that participated in this most significant edition. Twenty years we celebrated, and what a special ten-day occasion it was – despite the major challenge of funding. I would like to congratulate all the winners in the South African/African and International categories, and thank all those that cast their ballots.”

The full list and runners up are:

South African/African Films Joint Winners

First place went to The Fun’s Not Over: The James Phillips Story by director Michael Cross, and the film Not In My Neighbourhoods by director Kurt Orderson.

Second place went to the film Survivors by directors Arthur Pratt, Anna Fitch, Banker White and Lansana Mansard; and Pluck: A Film Not Just About The Chicken by directors Joëlle Chesselet and Lloyd Ross.

The third place went to Akin Omotoso for his film, The Colour of Wine.

International Films

The winning film went to Life is Wonderful: Mandela’s Unsung Heroes.

Runners up included:

  • Westwood; Punk, Icon, Activist by director Lorna Tucker
  • Matangi/Maya/M.I.A. by director Stephen Loveridge
  • DeMiner by directors Hogir Hirori and Shinwar Kamal
  • The Price of Everything by director Nathaniel Kahn

Encounters also announced the winners of the Encounters – SK EYE Awards:

The first prize went to The Art of Healing.
“We loved this film because of it’s authenticity, and sensitivity towards the brave subject, Lizette Chirrime. Using more conceptual visuals to represent the suffering Chirrime has faced in her life, it gave the film room to breathe and it was a brilliant way to illustrate what we can only imagine how her experience must have felt like. The narrative structure of the film was powerful, as it provided the context of her life before moving to her art making process, and the joy and relief it brings to her now.”

Second place went to Masquerading: To Hell and Back.
“The main subjects of the film were charismatic and fascinating. Their openness allowed for an intimate portrait of the experience of performing drag in South Africa over the last 20 to 30 years. A very moving story that definitely has enough content for a feature! Best cinematography out of all the films – we loved the intro shot!”

Special mentions were given to I Still Rise, a story about VULPRO (for story).
“To make a film about vultures that show them as sweet and loveable isn’t easy, but by the end we all had a soft spot for vultures, and a understanding towards why it is important to look after them.”

Music in the Mountains, a film about the Drakensburg Boys choir (for story).
“Wonderful subject, the filmmakers choose the perfect student Sithle. Heart warming story.”

Red Zone Paramedics was chosen for its creativity.
“The film focuses on a heavy subject, and the filmmakers handled it with a bit of comedy and lightness, which made the film easy to watch while the audience is still made fully aware of how difficult it is for this group of paramedics to do the job they are so passionate about.”


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