Thursday, July 22, 2010

Encounters South African International Documentary Festival 2010


Cape Town: 12 - 29 August 2010

* Nu Metro, V&A Waterfront
* Labia on Orange, 68 Orange Street, Gardens

Johannesburg: 18 – 29 August 2010

The Bioscope, Ground Floor of Main Street Life, 286 Fox Street, Maboneng Precinct

Monty Python, Corporate Greed, Osama’s Driver, Our Rugby Heroes, Berlusconi, Drug Barons, Jozi, Afrikaans and Township kids are all at the Encounters South African International Documentary Film Festival - celebrating 12 years of thought-provoking entertainment this August.

ENCOUNTERS is the premier Documentary Festival on the African continent and a major event on the film circuit calendar.

Documentaries have the power to take audiences into other worlds, hold a mirror up to humanity and lift the veil on our perceptions of ourselves and others.

Doc features are now a global phenomenon and this year filmgoers are offered an exceptional and varied selection of 50+films – many award winning titles, fresh from international festivals, and 8 that will receive their World Premières at ENCOUNTERS.

Here are some of the highlights:


Once again the organisers of Encounters have selected the best films that portray the South African landscape and its peoples. Young international directors present an outsider’s view of South African political history, and a look at life in the underbelly of the urban sprawl and age-old traditional rituals.

RFK In The Land of Apartheid – A Ripple of Hope USA 2009 75min
This is a film that was begging to be made – a remarkable gem, with never-before-seen footage and contemporary interviews, filmmakers Larry Shore and Tami Gold tell the story of Robert Kennedy's historic 1966 trip to South Africa. The film highlights a dark part of South Africa's history while demonstrating courage that was truly a ripple of hope. In six days RFK covered enormous ground, delivering four recorded public speeches (UND, Stellenbosch, the Johannesburg Bar and WITS), visited Soweto – shaking the hands of ordinary people – and visited the banned Nobel Laureate Chief Albert Luthuli. It is his “Ripple of Hope” speech which he made in South Africa and which is acknowledged as the greatest of his career that was unfortunately, almost two years to the day later, to be his epitaph.

Comrade Goldberg Germany 2010 55min World Première
As the only white among those convicted and sentenced to life at the Rivonia Trials, Denis Goldberg will always have a unique place in South African history.
Peter Heller’s film is a personal and political account of the man who became an MK commander, bomb maker and saboteur and who spent 22 years in Pretoria Central as a consequence. His segregation from the others sent to Robben Island denied him the contact and the companionship of his fellow accused. This film tells about the human side of the often painful road to freedom, about the joy of living, love and death, human dignity, political passion and a very long imprisonment.

On The Other Side of Life Germany 2009 88min
Filmmakers Brockhaus and Wolff follow Bongani and Lucky, young brothers living on the “edge of the edge” in Khayelitsha shantyland, to Pollsmoor, where they await trial for murder until their grandmother posts their bail with her pension. Out on bail they travel to the beautiful mountains of the Eastern Cape, where newly circumcised, they are initiated into the ways of men – time now to put aside rape, robbery and drugs, and live responsible lives! This is not the story of just two young South African men, but of millions.
Directors Stefanie Brockhaus and Andy Wolff are guests of the Festival and travel courtesy of the Goethe-Institut.

Promised Land USA 2010 53min
Historically, socially and personally, land possession is a controversial issue in Africa. Post-colonial nations have struggled with righting the ills of the past without upsetting agricultural security. Focussing on South Africa’s land reform, Richen’s fascinating and balanced documentary sheds new light on this ongoing and always complex issue.
Director Yoruba Richen is a guest of the Festival.

Made by South Africans for South Africans

Three of the best South African documentary filmmakers will be shown at this year’s Encounters: Clifford Bestall, Rehad Desai and Jo Menell.

Directed by Clifford Bestall, and narrated by Morgan Freeman, The 16th Man (SA 2010 50min)reveals the extraordinary political acumen of Nelson Mandela, when he saw and used the opportunity of an international sporting tournament, the Rugby World Cup in 1995, to heal and reconcile a nation that had teetered on the brink of civil war. It recreates the tension and drama on and off the pitch. It intertwines footage of the games, happenings in the country and key interviews with those at the heart of events, to tell the amazing true story of how the contest, and the thrilling Springbok victory, changed everyone involved and the country with it. The 16th Man is based on John Carlin’s Invictus, also the inspiration for the Clint Eastwood film. Cliff Bestall will conduct an Encounters Master Class.

Rehad Desai ‘s The Battle for Johannesburg (SA 2010 71min) centres on the run up to the World Cup, where the long-running struggle for control of central Jozi has intensified. But, the ambitious urban renewal projects aimed at transforming the mean streets into a “World Class city” haven’t made much headway against endemic crime, and a burgeoning population of poor migrants occupying crumbling tenements. Desai turns investigative reporter as he exposes the brutality of evictions, police raids and self-appointed landlords, the appalling living conditions of the residents and the lofty ambitions of property developers hoping to transform derelict buildings into islands of security and comfort among the deprivation and decay.

Jo Menell’s Thembi (SA 2010 50min) is the portrait of an enchanting young woman whose travails epitomise the experience of the majority of South African youth. She came to fame through her audio diary recorded for the US National Public Radio. It documented her daily life in Khayelitsha and the physical, social and emotional struggle of living with HIV. This is a World Première.

Afrikaners and Afrikaans Identity is a topical subject amongst the chattering classes and is explored in the films:

Afrikaaps Directed by Dylan Valley SA 2010 60min
Encounters is delighted to present the World Première of Afrikaaps, which breaks ground by boldly reclaiming and liberating Afrikaans – so long considered the language of the oppressor. It does this by foregrounding alternative histories of ‘the creole birth’ of the language and shattering long-existing efforts to whitewash and purify Afrikaans. While the ideas of the film are informed by rigorous academic study, the presentation of those ideas are steeped in the now – conveyed by hip hop-generation Cape Town-based artists like Jitsvinger, Bliksemstraal, Blaq Pearl and Emile XY, who school audiences with an immediacy, irreverence and vibrancy often frowned upon by the academy.

Afrikaner Afrikaan directed by Rina Jooste SA 2009 48min
Using music as a springboard for discussion, Jooste's selection of muso protagonists, Deon Maas, Sean Else and Johrné van Huysteen, captures the new buoyancy and divergence in Afrikaner identities freed from the straitjacket of Afrikaner nationalism. The enduring power of music and song to express and assert identity, and protest, is evidenced in the recent De La Rey phenomenon (it sold over 200,000 copies), and the popularity of Fokofpolisiekar, a punk Afrikaans band who refuse to be apologisers but are moulding a more liberal identity for Afrikaans youth. Even before this, in the 1980s, the foundations were laid by artists such as Koos Kombuis and Johannes Kerkorrel, who first questioned the Afrikaans norm.

Other South African titles include:

Earthchild directed by Lesedi Mogoatlhe SA 2008 48 min
Nokuphiwo Jada, is changing the lives and attitudes of children at a Khayelitsha primary school. Her effective use of yoga, meditation and other life skills is evident in the testimony of her young pupils, who speak with passion and pleasure of the influence of simple relaxation and awareness techniques on their outlook and ambitions.

The World Première of Here Be Dragons, directed by Odette Geldenhuys (SA 2010) is a portrait of the life and legal career of the South African national treasure, George Bizos.

Unhinged: Surviving Jo’burg directed by Adrian Loveland SA 2010 52min
Loveland takes you on a spin (literally) through and around Jo’burg in this doccie. He calls it a black documentary and throws all the crazy, sad, hectic and magic of Jo’burg at you with a mixture of facts, photography and footage.

Moving to other parts of Africa - Life in war torn Congo is explored in Congo in Four Acts DRC / SA 2009 69min, a collection of four short films by first-time Congolese filmmakers Dieudo Hamadi, Divita Wa Lusala and Kiripi Katembo Siku, that offer a rare glimpse of life there, stories that range from the absurd to the horrifying to the heartbreaking; fearlessly honest, the young filmmakers compassionately reveal the frailty, doggedness and beauty of ordinary people living in intolerable circumstances.

State of Mind Directed by Djo Tunda wa Munga DRC 2009 50min, follows an intriguing psychological experiment led by the 80-year old Albert Pesso, using his psychomotor therapy technique. Shot during group sessions conducted in the DRC, and interspersed with beautiful images of people and countryside that counterpoint the real ‘State of Mind’ of the nation, the film reveals startling results. It shows how non-verbal interactions can unlock memories and how the healing process transcends languages.

Set in Sierra Leone Steve Kwena Mokwena’s Driving with Fanon (SA / Sierra Leone 2010 55min)reveals the trembling violence, bristling just below the surface of Freetown. With Frantz Fanon’s wisdom a cautionary backdrop, Mokwena’s daring, unsettling film, with its atmospheric soundtrack challenges a new generation of Africans to ask and answer the hardest questions about our recent past and uneasy post-colonial present.

For the Best and for the Onion! Directed by Sani Elhadj Magori (Niger / France 2008 52min) charts the travails of Yaro, a hard man and an onion farmer, as he fights the elements, decreasing onion prices and competing farmers to finally provide his daughter Salamatou with nuptials that she and tradition deserve. Salamatou’s wedding teeters over the success of Yaro’s famous Galmi purple onion crop. Courtesy of the French Embassy

African Movie Academy Awards 200, Nigeria - Best Documentary
Caméra des champs 2009, Ville-sur-Yron - Prix Jean Rouch
Docudays 2009, Beirut - 1er prix du jury et Prix du jury jeune lycéen
Corsica.Doc 2009 - Best foreign film award
Dokfest 2009, Munich - Award Best Documentary (Feature-length)
GZ DOC 2009, Guangzhou - Grand Prize Focus Competition
Festival Filmer le travail 2009, Poitiers - Great Award


And now for something completely different - Monty Python: Almost the Truth (The Lawyer’s Cut) UK 2009 106 min – portrays the group which even today, over 30 years after their debut on UK TV, retain their cult like status. This is the first time the Python phenomenon has been so candidly dissected on film. From childhood photos and home movies to their university days and early work in television, the documentary seeks to describe, if not explain, the complex characters that came together to form the most influential comedy team in history. Surprisingly frank interviews with the surviving Pythons, providing an inside view of the creative process, and the tensions. The film is peppered with best-loved snippets from their irreverent oeuvre.

More fun will be had watching Winnebago Man USA 2009 87min, winner of a host of awards. When outtakes from a 20-year-old sales video for Winnebago autohomes made it onto YouTube, the presenter, Jack Rebney, became an unwitting internet sensation. Dubbed “the angriest man in the world”, Rebney’s hilarious, expletive-drenched outbursts have been downloaded by millions and widely quoted in Hollywood movies and TV shows. We find Rebney in his isolated mountain cabin where the 80-year-old is as angry as ever, but also intelligent, humane and immensely engaging.CineVegas IFF 2009 Audience Award
Edmonton IFF 2009 Grand Jury Award
Sarasota FF 2009 Jury Prize
Berlinale 2009 International Panorama Audience Award

‘Is Greed Good?’ is the question asked in The Yes Men Fix the World USA / UK / France 2009 87min. Audacious, irreverent and mischievous, crusaders Andy and Mike are a passionate pair of corporate pranksters. Determined to bring to light the real issues that US corporations such as Dow, Exxon Mobil and Halliburton spend a lot of money glossing over, they travel the globe adopting false corporate personas, spewing absurd notions and ideas, trying to draw attention to the real impact of big business and the Free Market model.
IDFA 2009 DOC U! Award

The Arts are celebrated with Of Heart and Courage: Béjart Ballet Lausanne Spain 2009 80min in which we see Gil Roman faced by a daunting and thrilling challenge. He has ‘inherited’ the renowned Lausanne-based ballet company founded by his mentor, Maurice Béjart. He must choreograph and present his first ballet to an expectant audience who will make the inevitable comparisons. This a superb film, not just for ballet aficionados, and what emerges is the delicate interplay between Roman and his dancers in producing an exquisite, exciting, exacting ballet.

Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould Canada 2009 108min
‘I detest audiences. They are a force of evil,’ so said Glenn Gould, the renowned pianist and 'interpreter' of JS Bach, who abandoned public performances at the height of his career, aged 32. The film includes anecdotes of his legendary eccentricities, but with new-found footage exposes more of the man and his complicated love life.

City of Photos India 2005 75min takes you into the grubby photo shacks of India. Here we see a rich culture of a nation observing itself. Surprisingly, this is not only done in context of vanity, but also in front of history. Subjects pose, poised, before painted backdrops depicting natural disasters and some human ones that are universally familiar and horrifying.

In The News

Encounters also includes news making subjects like The Oath which provides an insight into that very 21st century construct, the War on Terror. The narrative is built around the arrest and seven-year detention at Guantanamo Bay of Osama bin Laden’s driver Salim Hamdan: we meet the man who recruited him, his brother-in-law and former bin Laden bodyguard, Abu Jandal, and the US military lawyer defending the man Jandal feels he betrayed. The film sweeps from Yemen, where Jandal has undergone a Yemeni re-education programme, to Cuba and back again.

Videocracy Sweden / Denmark / UK / Finland 2009 85min
Silvio Berlusconi, media magnate and current Italian prime minister has turned Italy into a nation of celebrity-obsessed wannabes, addicted to cheap TV game shows and talent contests in which naked women are the main attraction. Videocracy concentrates on the culture he has created and the deeply strange people who feed its desires. Courtesy of SFI

Sins of My Father Columbia / Argentina 2009 75min
Some happily live in their father’s shadow, but when Dad is cocaine-baron Pablo Escobar, that shadow is dark, foreboding and seemingly endless. A fugitive for the last years of his father’s life, and exiled in Argentina since his death, Escobar’s son Sebastián Marroquín opens the family’s film and photo archives and recounts his father’s life, as he remembers it.
Courtesy of the Director
Miami FF 2010 Grand Jury Prize / Audience Award
Sundance 2010 Nominated - Grand Jury Prize

Pax Americana and the Weaponization of Space France / Canada 2009 90min exposes the likely consequences for the planet if the US military succeeds in occupying “the ultimate high ground”. These include the risk of a space-based arms race, nuclear retaliation by threatened powers, the likelihood of catastrophic error and the danger the debris from destroyed satellites and missiles pose to global communication systems.
Denis Delestrac is a guest of the Festival, courtesy of the French Embassy, and will conduct an Encounters Master Class.

The Best of the Rest feature

Petition Dir: Zhao Liang France / China 2009 124min
In China, many people travel huge distances to seek justice, to right legal wrongs after failing to win cases lodged at local levels. They are pursued by gangs of men hired by those same local authorities, and are intimidated, dragged away from outside official buildings, and often beaten to stop them filing their petitions. For some the ‘Petitioners’ Village’ is the only ‘home’ they have known, brought there as children by parents who no longer have the option of returning to their villages.

The Sound of Insects Dir: Peter Liechti Switzerland 2009 88min, based on the diary of a man who has decided to starve himself to death in a forest, Liechti’s minimalistic vision negotiates between the renunciation of life and the power of dreaming further through cinema. We wait on the line between life and death, and when the latter finally arrives, the effect is stupendous.

European Film Awards 2009 Best Documentary
Tapped Dir: USA 2009 75min
Water, water everywhere, but at what a price to drink! This instantly gripping, well-researched documentary investigates the many negative health and environmental issues that surround the commercialisation of H2O.

The National Film and Video Foundation is the primary sponsor of the Festival. Encounters is made possible by the further support of the Cape Film Commission, Provincial Government of Western Cape, The Times, Nu Metro, Tempest Car Hire, Out in Africa , Pro Helvetia, The Swiss Arts Council, French Embassy, British Council and Cape Town TV.

For Further information please contact:
Joy Sapieka 073 212 5492

Helene Turvey 076 024 2993