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Encounters is Africa's premier documentary festival running in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

Public Figure makes SA debut

Having recently received the award for Inspiration & Influence at the Global Social Awards in Prague, Bonang Matheba debuted her first film, Public Figure, at the 21st Encounters South African International Documentary Festival, which took place between 6 – 16 June in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

Festival organizers made the film accessible to the widest range of audiences, with screenings held at the Rosebank Nouveau on15 June and at the V&A Nouveau in Cape Town on 16 June.

After Public Figure’s global premiere at the Manchester International Film Festival in March this year, the 2019 Encounters South African International Documentary Festival saw the first local screening of Matheba’s co-produced film.

In addition to Matheba, Public Figure features actress Rose McGowan and internet provocateur Sebastian Tribbie, with an appearance by Denzel Washington, with footage courtesy of CBN.

“Influencer culture pervades every aspect of modern life. For better or worse and everything in between, I really wanted to be part of this film to show the world, especially my fans in South Africa, the scope and impact of social media and the personas we let into our lives every day,” says Bonang Matheba.

“Bonang is the perfect example of a personality who has made use of social media and transcended it. From fashion to her business endeavours, it’s clear that she is more than an influencer, but the connection to the world of social media and the environment in which she has gained her success cannot be ignored. I’m very grateful and excited to show South African audiences and get the reaction of the fans of one of the film’s biggest stars,” says director Brian Corso.

Public Figure has been screened at the Socially Relevant Film Festival New York 2019 in March where it also won the Special Merit award at the Impact Documentary Awards.

Public Figure goes on sale internationally on June 18, when it will be available for purchase or rented via Amazon and iTunes.

 

Encounters announces opening night film

The 21st Encounters South African International Documentary Festival has announced the opening night film as well as a host of the most talked-about non-fiction films from the past year. Fresh from the world’s leading festivals, Encounters has secured the rights to screen 2019’s most acclaimed documentaries, movies that put you in places as diverse as the front row of high-fashion’s runways to eavesdropping on an international racist conspiracy with South African ties, from a tribute to pan-Africanism via Fela Kuti to Afrika Bambaataa’s search for his routes in Kwa-Zulu Natal, this years selection is overflowing with essential choices for documentary fans.

The opening night film, coming just weeks after its World Premiere in Competition at Hot Docs, Buddha In Africa, by South African director Nicole Schafer receives its’ joint South African premiere at Encounters and the 40th Durban International Film Festival (DIFF).

This delicately observed documentary is about a Malawian teenager in a Chinese Buddhist orphanage in Africa, who finds himself torn between his African roots and Chinese upbringing. Director Schafer says, “It’s also about Africa’s relations with other foreign nations, including the former colonisers. It’s this idea that the key to the future of the continent’s development is always held by outsiders, and that in order to succeed, we have to adapt to foreign value systems and policies. I think Enock’s story challenges this idea in very refreshing ways.”

This year, once again Encounters is proud to co-present several South African and international documentaries in association with DIFF. The partnership has enabled filmmakers to premiere their films at both festivals for the last 14 years.

For ten days from 6 to 16 June, Cape Town and Johannesburg audiences will have the privilege to see this year’s top-rated documentaries, each of them breaking new ground in non-fiction filmmaking.

You will find eye-popping spectacles as you’re placed in the front row of high-fashion in Ian Bonhote and Peter Ettedgui’s ravishing McQueen, a superbly crafted, emotionally wrenching and fully dimensional portrait of ill-fated British fashion designer Alexander McQueen. The film, like McQueen’s designs is scorchingly outspoken, thrilling, troubling and tinged with tragedy. Nominated for a BAFTA for both best documentary and Outstanding British Film of the year the film Won 2019’s LGBTQ documentary of the year from the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association.

Cold Case Hammarskjöld won Danish provocateur Mads Brügger the Best World Documentary Director at February’s Sundance Film Festival, and received the same honour from this year’s One World International Human Rights Documentary Festival. Brügger is infamous for his ironic and incisive trawling of the tainted and the corrupt. He is back in Africa on the trail of the plotters and murderers of UN Secretary, Dag Hammarskjöld, in 1961. The dirt he uncovers should be creating a stench from London to South Africa via Belgium in what Variety’s Owen Glieberman described as, “a singular experience that counts as one of the most honestly disturbing and provocative nonfiction films in years.”

Another coup for this year’s Encounters is the screening of Talking About Trees, director Suhaib Gasmalbari’s elegant and bittersweet chronicle of the demise of Sudanese cinema and the group of retired directors hoping to revive their country’s love of film. The film won the Glasshutte Prize for Best Documentary and the Panorama Audience Award at this year’s Berlin International Film Festival before winning the Fipresci Prize and Jury Prize at the Istanbul International Film Festival in April this year.

Brazilian director Joel Zito Araújo’s My Friend Fela had its World Premiere at the International Film Festival Rotterdam before going on to win the Paul Robeson Award for Best Film from the Diaspora at Burkina Faso’s FESPACO, the world’s pre-eminent African film festival. It explores the life of legendary Nigerian musician Fela Kuti from the perspective of his long-time friend Carlos Moore.

The State Against Mandela and the Others from French directors Nicolas Champeaux and Gilles Porte was in the Official Selection of this year’s Cannes and was nominated for a Cesar, receiving acclaim for its unexpectedly refreshing take on the apartheid era’s pivotal Rivonia trial. Drawing on a treasure trove of previously inaccessible 256 hours of audio recordings, the directing duo bring the archive clips alive using heavily stylised hand-drawn visuals by the Dutch graphic artist Oerd van Cuijlenborg, whose kinetic monochrome animations morph into pure abstraction in places. It is a remarkable documentary and an inspired recycling of archival material.

A feast of new South African films will also be screening at this year’s Encounters. Following its North American premiere at Hot Docs this May, Dying for Gold from directors Catherine Meyburgh and Richard Pakleppa, is a devastating documentary centred around South Africa’s biggest class-action lawsuit, against the mining industry. Featuring a rich archive of footage from the colonial and apartheid eras, along with interviews with gold miners whose lives have been decimated by silicosis and tuberculosis, this forceful, vivid film clearly shows how Southern Africa’s indigenous societies were destroyed in order to mine the world’s richest deposits of gold at the cheapest possible price.

Equally as passionate is Susan Scott’s Stroop: Journey into the Rhino Horn War, which made headlines as South Africa’s breakout documentary of the year after winning over 17 international awards. As gripping and grueling as the best of thrillers, it follows two inexperienced female filmmakers who travel the African bush and South-East Asia in search of answers to the random slaughter of the world’s diminishing rhino population.

Paul Yule’s tribute to a South African legend, Americans, Mongrels & Funky Junkies – the Life of Jo Menell is an inspiring and affectionate tribute to a rare South African whose life of exile and global activism has aligned with many of the key moments and figures of the last 60 years. From Vietnam to Castro, from Hockney to Mandela, filmmaker Jo Menell’s exceptional capacity to be both storyteller and subject offers an unusual and brilliant perspective into the complexity of our times.

This year’s festival sees a rare screening of Village Versus Empire by Emmy award-winning South African director Mark J Kaplan. Set on Jeju Island, off the coast of the Korean Peninsula – one of the ‘Seven Wonders of Nature’, with more UNESCO Natural Heritage Sites than any single geographic location on planet earth. But, there is trouble in this paradise. Its fragile ecology and ancient shamanistic traditions are currently being devastated by the construction of a US naval base. Through the memories and actions of a range of political activists, religious leaders and artists the film explores the inter-connectedness of past, present and future and the universal relevance of a village resisting an empire.

Zulu Return is the intriguing debut from emerging director Gugulethu. The documentary follows the fallen hip hop hero Afrika Bambaataa’s spiritual quest to South Africa – the country he spent so much of his life honouring and defending through his music and activism – as he faces the effects of abuse allegations against him in his own life.

Encounters is delighted to announce a Swiss Focus, in association with Swiss Films and the Embassy of Switzerland in South Africa, Consulate General of Switzerland in Cape Town, that will include #FemalePleasure Barbara Miller’s  Award winning examination of the obstacles that stand in the way of female sexuality in the 21st century. Emmanuelle Antille’s A Bright Light: Karen and the Process a wild and enchanting journey in the footsteps of cult singer Karen Dalton, forgotten muse of the 60’s, and Chris the Swiss, director Anja Kofmel’s dazzling feature debut where she revisits the wild life and strange death of her war reporter cousin with an innovative blend of animation and documentary.

It was 21 years ago that Encounters collaborated with Pro Helvetia on the first Encounters Swiss South African Documentary Film Festival and the Close Encounters Documentary Film Making Lab in 1999. In 2001 Encounters became the Encounters South African International Documentary Festival, but the festival’s relationship with Switzerland has endured, particularly with Vision du Réel, in Nyon, a documentary festival that regularly incorporates a South African Focus, hosting local filmmakers and their work.

Also in the bumper line-up for this years feast of non-fiction film are Beyond the Frontlines: Resistance and Resilience in Palestine, a significant and powerful film from French author and feminist Alexandra Dols; and German documentarian Karin Jurschick’s Playing God which follows the struggle of the charismatic and controversial US attorney who, since 9/11, has been charged with the impossible task of assigning a dollar value to life when compensating victims of America’s most tragic events. Lesotho breakthrough filmmaker, Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese’s beautifully poetic Mother, I Am Suffocating, This Is My Last Film About You; Jacqueline Gozland’s moving tribute to the heydays of the Algerian cinematheque, My Story Is Not Written Yet; as well as the premiere of progressive Soweto-born filmmaker Fanney Tsimong’s My Culture My Music.

The festival will hold the World Premiere of Jozi Gold – a story of wealth, greed and poisonous mountains. Johannesburg has produced a third of all the gold in the world. Now the gold is running out, the mines are falling apart and toxic waste turns water into poison. Former Jehovah’s witness, Mariette Liefferink is on a mission to force the mine bosses to clean up. The film is by Fredrik Gertten and Sylvia Vollenhoven, based on an original story by Adam Welz.

Encounters is made possible by the support of Bertha Foundation, City of Cape Town, WESGRO, Embassy of Switzerland in South Africa Consulate General of Switzerland in Cape Town, Swiss Films, IFAS – The French Institute of South Africa, DOK.fest Munich, Goethe Institut, Backsberg Estate Cellars, HCI Foundation, Refinery, Documentary Filmmakers Association, South African Guild of Editors, UCT Centre for Film & Media Studies, City Varsity, Big Fish School of Digital Filmmaking, Labia, Ster Kinekor Cinema Nouveau, The Bioscope, Bertha Movie House, Tshisimani Centre for Activist Education and Protea Hotel Fire & Ice.

First African films confirmed for Encounters 2019

Following the announcement of the first international titles for this year’s 21st Encounters South African International Documentary Festival, the first South African and African films are as compelling as their global counterparts. From the vivid specifics of underground Cape Town in the 1960’s and 70’s to the influence of Frantz Fanon on African thought, exploring heritage through dance to the ironic rigours required when raising money for a movie in the hermetic world of the film festival circuit, all the films speak cinematically about highly charged issues for South African audiences.

Two of the films highlight ‘forbidden’ Cape Town during the height of Apartheid and resistance in the 1960s and 70s. BILLY MONK : A SHOT IN THE DARK (World Premiere) sees fine artist, archivist and filmmaker Craig Cameron-Mackintosh pay tribute to small-time crook, drifter and gifted photographer, Billy Monk. This essential film explores underground life in the Mother City’s dockside nightclub ‘The Catacombs’ while Billy was a bouncer. In between keeping order, he took photographs of the clientele and his non-judgmental approach gave birth to an archive of stunning images of visiting sailors, goodtime girls, transvestites, musicians and bar regulars. His access to this cross-section of society allowed him to photograph scenes of uncensored joy, passion and debauchery not often associated with apartheid-era South Africa. Various people, including his son, David Monk, and a number of well-known photographers (David Goldblatt, Gavin Furlonger, Jac de Villiers) add their observations and it is pulled together by journalist Lin Sampson reading from her book “Now you’ve gone ‘n killed me”. Sampson wrote of Monk, “He was killed before he knew he was famous”. He was shot in 1982 en route to his first exhibition at the Market Theatre Gallery.

Between 1972 and 1979 Cape Town saw a theatre challenge the State and present the most innovative and challenging works one could see in Apartheid South Africa. THE SPACE: THEATRE OF SURVIVAL (World Premiere)is a definitive record from filmmakers Mark Street and Dan Poole of the theatre, its productions, its people and the times they were reacting to. Situated in Long Street in Cape Town, it was the brainchild of photographer Brian Astbury who, together with Yvonne Bryceland and Athol Fugard, laid the cornerstone of a South African theatre tradition. In the film Astbury and Fugard, as well as a range of actors, producers and others from Pieter-Dirk Uys to John Kani to Richard E.Grant, recall the origins of the theatre, the plays it presented and the theatrical mission to oppose the apartheid government in all its manifestations.

FANON: YESTERDAY, TODAY, this is a significant documentary about the legacy of Martiniquan intellectual Frantz Fanon. Through the testimonies of his comrades and the people who knew him, Algerian director Hassane Mezine explores Fanon’s eventful life and extraordinary struggles. The Caribbean intellectual died in 1961 yet the impact of his work is still tremendous on social movements and subaltern groups. The documentary examines the relevance of Fanonian thought in the context of contemporary revolts in South Africa, Palestine, Algeria, and the United States.

THE SOUND OF MASKS, directed and produced by Sara Gouveia, is a beautifully moving ode to the cultures of Mozambique told primarily through dance and music. Mapiko is a traditional, masked dance performed exclusively by the male members of the Makonde community in northern Mozambique. During the War of Independence, this dance became a tool to challenge colonization. His Mapiko dancing skills gave Atanásio Nyusi the opportunity to become a professional dancer and avoid fighting in the civil war that followed independence. In relating his life story, the now legendary dancer also leads us through the history of Mozambique. Blending observational footage, archive material and contemporary dance sequences, this captivating film crosses the threshold between real and imaginary. After its World Premiere at IDFA in November 2018, the film had its African Premiere at the Marrakech International Film Festival in December and will screen at Encounters immediately after its North American Premiere at Hot Docs this May.

This year’s Encounters will see Dali Tambo’s tribute to his late father OLIVER TAMBO – THE JEWEL IN OUR CROWN. Produced by Kamscilla Naidoo the informative, celebratory film tells his story against the backdrop of a century that spanned two world wars, the Holocaust, the Cold War, the independence of various African countries, southern African border wars, the rise of the Civil Rights Movement, the rise of Apartheid, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the defeat of Apartheid in 1994. An unconventional biopic, it plays as a series of milestones in the liberation history of South Africa, and links to the man who influenced each one of them despite never setting foot inside his country for thirty years.

The World Premiere of JOZI GOLD is a story of wealth, greed and poisonous mountains, Johannesburg produces a third of all gold mined, Now the gold is running out  , the mines are falling apart  and toxic waste  turns water into poison. Former Jehovah’s Witness Mariette Liefferink  is on a mission to force the mine bosses to clean up. The film is by Fredrik Gertten and Sylvia Vollenhoven based on an original story by Adam Welz.

Fresh from a controversial screening at this year’s Berlin Film Festival, FILM FESTIVAL FILM is the most mischievous film in this year’s programme. Shot at 2018’s Durban International Film Festival with a prankster’s sense of high jinks and minimal resources pooled together by its contributors, the film by Mpumelelo Mcata and Perivi Katjavivi tells the story of Fanon (played by Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom star, Lindiwe Matshikiza) a black female filmmaker beset by her demons ten floors up in an ocean-side hotel, during the hermetically-sealed weirdness that is the world of a film festival. Blurring reality and fiction only helps deepen its roguish questioning of the film business, in this sharply made, much-needed exploration of how one tries to get movies made.

More African, South African and International titles will be announced soon. Encounters runs from 6 – 16 June in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

The 21st Encounters South African International Documentary Festival

The Encounters South African International Documentary Festival has announced the first international documentaries confirmed for this year’s edition.

The line-up has been chosen from the past year’s most riveting documentary cinema selected from the world’s leading festivals, with subjects ranging from the state-sanctioned amnesia towards the crimes of the Franco regime; a young woman who has become a symbol of hope for her people; identical triplets separated at birth; as well as empathetic and insightful films featuring people from Mikhail Gorbachev and Ruth Bader Ginsburg to Miles Davis, with more to come in the next month.

Films already confirmed include:

MEETING GORBACHEV: Werner Herzog teams up as director with André Singer, (producer of The Act of Killing) for this riveting documentary, filled with unforgettable archive materials and based on three long interviews which provide incredible access to Mikhail Gorbachev, former General Secretary of the U.S.S.R..

THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS: Three strangers are reunited by astonishing coincidence after being born identical triplets, separated at birth, and adopted by three different families. Their jaw-dropping, feel-good story instantly becomes a global sensation complete with fame and celebrity, however, the fairy-tale reunion sets in motion a series of events that unearth an unimaginable secret with radical repercussions. Filmmaker Tim Wardle won the 2019 Director’s Guild Award for this gripping, stranger-than-fiction account that plays like a thriller.

ON HER SHOULDERS: An award-winner at numerous festivals – including Canada’s Hot Docs and Best Documentary director at 2018’s Sundance – Alexandria Bombach’s film follows Nadia Murad, who survived the 2014 genocide of the Yazidis in Northern Iraq and escaped the hands of ISIS to become a relentless beacon of hope for her people, eventually being appointed a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity for Survivors of Human Trafficking. The film stops short of her sharing the Nobel Peace Prize for 2018, but it’s a moving and essential portrait of the strength required to speak out for humanity.

RBG: At the age of 84, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has developed a breath-taking legal legacy while becoming an unexpected pop culture icon. But without a definitive Ginsburg biography, the unique personal journey of this diminutive, quiet warrior’s rise to the nation’s highest court has been largely unknown, even to some of her biggest fans – until now.

THE SILENCE OF OTHERS: After the death of General Franco in 1975, some people hoped that those guilty of crimes against humanity would be brought to justice. However, the 1977 Amnesty Law, nicknamed “The Pact of Forgetting”, prevented that. Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Sheffield Documentary Film festival and Audience Award in Berlin, this stylish, cinematic film from Emmy-winning Almudena Carracedo and Robert Bahar, follows the efforts of a few ageing survivors as they try to repeal the controversial Amnesty Law and bring former perpetrators to justice. Executive produced by Pedro Almodóvar this stirring documentary unfolds with all the force of a classic political thriller.

MILES DAVIS: BIRTH OF THE COOL: A visionary, innovator, and originator who defied categorisation and embodied the word cool: this foray into the life and career of musical and cultural icon Miles Davis is definitive. While previous books and films made Miles Davis look like a magical character, Stanley Nelson’s film depicts the musician as what he was – a man who was driven by his art and chained by the racist society he was born into. Birth of the Cool which shares a title with a Davis album from 1957, explores the intricacies of his career in great detail and it’s a tantalising portrait: rich, probing, mournful, romantic, triumphant, tragic, exhilarating, and blisteringly honest.

More titles will be announced soon, this years Encounters runs from 6 to 16 June in  Johannesburg and Cape Town.

Encounters Rough Cut Lab announces call for documentary submissions

In partnership with Refinery Cape Town and the South African Guild of Editors (SAGE), the Encounters South African International Documentary Festival invites South African filmmakers to submit their documentary films for the 2nd Encounters Rough Cut Lab (RCL) to be held in Cape Town from 29 to 31 May 2019.

A maximum of three South African projects, consisting of one director and one editor, whose films are in post-production, will be selected to spend three days working on their film with internationally experienced homegrown editors Megan Gill, Ronelle Loots and Khalid Shamis. Projects will receive world class expertise and insight on story and technical challenges.

Prizes will be generously awarded by The Refinery in the form of free days for Grade or Online.

This call is only open to projects with an assembled rough cut.

Submissions Details:

  • A one-page synopsis maximum.
  • A biography of the director and editor.
  • A post-production schedule and predicted timeline for completion.
  • An online screener link and password to the viewable rough cut.
  • A one-page document from the director and another one-page document from the editor outlining the difficulties experienced with the film’s current structure and/or problematic areas in the story.
  • A write up of what has been achieved up to this point. No less than five weeks must have been spent in edit prior to the lab.
  • Films need to be independently produced, non-commissioned and feature-length – 70 mins or above.
  • All available footage accessible on a USB 3, firewire or thunderbolt hard drives.
  • Indicate software and software version used.

Send to: kamva@encounters.co.za with Rough Cut Lab in the subject line.

Submissions Deadline: On or before 4pm (South African time), Friday, 19 April 2019.

Any submissions that do not follow the strict submission details and page limitations will be disqualified.

The National Film & Video Foundation (NFVF) will provide travel and accommodation funding for RCL participants living outside of the Western Cape. Participants are responsible for applying for their own funding with the NFVF. SAGE will be available to assist the RCL participants with their applications process if need be.

Civil society saves Encounters

Encounters South African International Documentary Festival has been an essential fixture in the South African film landscape for two decades, but this year it almost never happened. The festival, arguably the continent’s premier showcase for non-fiction film, lost support from its main funder, The National Film and Video Foundation.

If the festival couldn’t raise R700 000 in a fortnight, this year’s event would have had to be cut short and the financing deficit would have crippled Encounters in one devastating blow. But the festival’s importance and impact on audiences, filmmakers, companies and NGOs proved that South Africans don’t want to lose Encounters, and all it stands for.

With the help of civil society there has been a dramatic a turnaround and within two weeks from the start of the financial crisis, supporters stepped forward to help fund the financing gap. The biggest support came from the Bertha Foundation with further backing from Open Society Foundation, and Spier.

The Documentary Filmmakers Association and HCI Foundation also contributed as well as over 100 individuals and companies who donated through the festival’s crowdfunding campaign, which raised  R128,359.00 towards the rescue fund.

Many filmmakers who have been guests at the festival in the past stepped up including Academy Award nominated and Peabody Award winning filmmaker David France and Joy Tomchin of Public Square Films.

While Encounters has made it through this year’s festival and there is reason to celebrate the show of support, the organisation still has no secure funding in place for future editions. This year was a crisis and Encounters is grateful that people showed their love.

Encounters believes in the power of documentary film to transform, create empathy and to contribute to mutual understanding and dialogue between cultures. Through its core activities, the festival has continued to be a vital platform where both established and emerging filmmakers and audiences intersect with documentary cinema from South Africa and abroad.

The success of the fundraising campaign is proof that South Africans and many others don’t want to lose it. The reality is that Encounters might not happen next year unless the crisis fund becomes something more secure.

Encounters Rough Cut Lab call for submissions

In partnership with Refinery Cape Town and the South African Guild of Editors (SAGE), the Encounters South African International Documentary Festival invites South African filmmakers to submit their films for the 2nd Encounters Rough Cut Lab to be held in Cape Town from Monday, 6 August 2018 to Friday, 10 August 2018.

A maximum of three South African projects, consisting of one director and one editor, whose films are in post-production, will be selected to spend five days working on their film with an experienced editing mentor. Projects will receive expert advice on story structure and technical aspects.

This call is only open to projects with an assembled rough cut.

Submissions Details:

  • A one-page synopsis maximum
  • A one-page directors vision/treatment
  • A one-page editors vision/treatment
  • A one-page biography of the director and editor
  • A one-page post production schedule and predicted timeline for completion
  • An online screener link and password to the viewable rough cut
  • A half page bullet point document outlining the difficulties currently experienced with the film’s current structure and / or problematic areas in the story, and if additional footage can be shot or sourced through archive.
  • A half-page indication of what has been achieved up to this point is required. No less than 5 weeks must have been spent in edit prior to the lab.
  • Films need to be feature length – 70 mins or above
  • All available footage accessible on a USB 3 or firewire hard drives
  • Indicate what software was used

Send to:  pa@encounters.co.za with Rough Cut Lab in the subject line

Submissions deadline: On or before 16h00 (South African time), Monday, 16 July 2018.

*Any submissions that do not follow the strict submission details and page limitations will be disqualified

 

 

 

 

Audiences back local stories for Encounters Backsberg Audience Awards 2018

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.”

Encounters faces closure

After two applications the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) responded on 31 May, and declined the Encounters South African International Documentary Festival’s request for funding.

“This is a call to action to all documentary fans, filmmakers and the media to save our festival,” says board member Mandisa Ralane. “Encounters has a proud two decade legacy of bringing the best documentary films to South African audiences but will be unable to continue unless R700 000 is raised in the next week.”

“It is sad that it should happen at this juncture, at the last minute, after years of providing a platform to so many filmmakers to present their work, aiding filmmakers with development of their films into marketable and distributable products, providing training, skills transfer and other opportunities to so many, particularly aspiring filmmakers from historically disadvantaged communities,” says this year’s guest festival director Reggie Khanzi.

The 20th edition of Encounters opened on 31 May with Whispering Truth to Power, Shameela Seedat’s award-winning film about Thuli Madonsela’s last year in office. The 2018 festival will run until 10 June.

The festival board urgently asks you to support Encounters by contacting https://www.thundafund.com/project/helpsaveencounters

 

Encounters South African International Documentary Festival turns 20

SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE: This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Encounters South African International Documentary Festival. The very first edition of the festival successfully ran with just 24 films.

Two decades and many stories later, this prestigious festival receives over a thousand film entries each year from across the globe, and hosts world-renowned industry speakers as well as hoards of emerging and renowned filmmakers who come together each year to hone their skills, tackle relevant issues and most importantly share the stories that are currently shaping our reality.

Reginald ‘Reggie’ Khanzi is this year’s guest festival director. A former director of the Apollo Film Festival in Victoria West in the Northern Cape, Khanzi currently holds the title of project director at the Apollo Development Association.

Encounters has a long, successful history with Apollo, having assisted Khanzi and his team with the programming and planning of previous editions. After a seven-year stint in government managing events, Khanzi is once again working in the film festival world and intends on improving the Apollo with the experience he will gain while serving as guest festival director for Encounters this year.

Khanzi expands: “They [Encounters] have a 20-year track record of providing opportunities for people like me, look what they have done for the status and production of documentary in this country; they’ve worked with four different broadcasters, securing commissions for local filmmakers, promoting their work and their international reputation! We have five international guests who are flying themselves here, paying for themselves nogal, because they want to be here at Encounters! I’ll leave here with a wealth of information, and I’ll have had the opportunity to connect with ‘new’ filmmakers and reconnect with filmmakers that I met all those years ago at the Apollo.”

Khanzi says that he started working on this year’s Encounters South African International Documentary Festival in April and has so far viewed countless film entries from local and international filmmakers for the 2018 edition.

“A long-list had been drawn up, and I’ve watched about 100 films, sat in meetings discussing the merits of each, devising a wide-ranging programme looking for tenderness, laughter, sadness, greatness, compassion, intrigue, our current affairs, our history, and a reasonable spread of films from around the world. It’s been hard – some films I really wanted we could not afford, as we’re working on a shoe-string budget, and we had to pass them up. I’ll say it again; it’s sad that Encounters does not have the support it deserves. I hope that it will not be as hard for the Apollo,” he says.

CELEBRATING WOMEN FILMMAKERS

For the 2018 edition, Khanzi and his team have deliberately selected and scheduled more films made by women, as well as more films about women with ‘The Power of Womanhood’ as this year’s focused theme. This spotlight on women’s issues is driven by the global #metoo campaign, as well as by the need to tackle the issue of male-dominance in the film industry. Over half of the 40 films selected are by female directors, the selected films also focus on women who have made an indelible mark on history. Notable films in the 2018 line-up include:

The HotDocs Special Jury winner, Whispering Truth to Power, by Shameela Seedat, which chronicles Thuli Madonsela’s final year as our Public Protector.

Xoliswa Sithole’s Standing On Their Shoulders is a powerful relook at the 1956 Women’s March and what it means for women today.

Sisters of the Wilderness, directed by Karin Slater, focuses on the cultural and spiritual journey of five Zulu women who explore the bush for the first time.

In the South African shorts section Hannah Rafkin and Meg Robbins’ In Stitches, as well as Suzanne Moody’s Kill or Die, both tickle the funny bone while raising two very poignant issues – that of vernacular stand-up and the struggles of comedians.

WORLD PREMIERES

With an impressive 70 titles, 43 features and nine world premieres; this year will see seven local filmmakers have their productions screened on the Encounters’ stage for the first time. These world premieres include Michael Cross’s The Fun’s not Over: The James Phillip’s Story; Freedom isn’t free: The Freedom Charter Today by Martin Jansen; Pluck: A film not just about Chicken by Joëlle Chesselet and Lloyd Ross; Rian Hendricks’s Ramothopo: The Centenarian; Sisters of the Wilderness directed by Karin Slater; Paul Myburgh’s The Story of Little Foot; and When Babies Don’t Come by Molatelo Mainetje.

Survivors, a film set in Sierra Leone, which tells the extraordinary account of a community’s response to the Ebola outbreak, will also be having its much-anticipated world premiere at Encounters 2018.

COMMEMORATING NELSON MANDELA

While 20 years is an exceptional milestone for the festival, a greater milestone is the centenary of the father of our nation – Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. “We are pleased to honour uTata by screening the Oscar-nominated Mandela by Jo Mennel and Angus Gibson. It focuses on Mandela’s early education, personal relationships and the activism which led to his 27-year imprisonment for sabotage. Our guest, Sir Nick Stadlen will present Life is Wonderful: Mandela’s Unsung Heroes which celebrates the robust and intricate defence mounted by Bram Fischer and George Bizos,” Khanzi shares.

As always, several workshops and masterclasses will also take place during the course of the festival.

The HCI Foundation and the City of Cape Town will be partnering in a project to provide transport and tickets for previously disadvantaged individuals, organisations and students. Bertha Movie House at the Isivivana Centre in Khayelitsha has been a long-standing partner of Encounters and will continue to provide free screenings at the centre as well as local transport to and from the screenings.

“I commend Encounters for the great work they have done over the years to reach this milestone, still standing and pushing hard. I can only imagine the number of challenges the festival has been through, I am really excited to be part of the team at this juncture and say to all the funders, the board, filmmakers and staff past and present – Halala Encounters Twenty!” Khanzi exclaims.

The 2018 Encounters South African International Documentary Festival takes place from 31 May to 10 June 2018 in Cape Town at The Labia Theatre, Cinema Nouveau V&A Waterfront, Bertha Movie House – Isivivana Centre in Khayelitsha, The Bioscope Independent Cinema in Johannesburg, as well as Cinema Nouveau in Rosebank.

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