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Encounters is the number one documentary festival in Africa and has been running for 24 years. We offer a 10-day multiplatform event, featuring the best African and international documentaries from around the world and continue to engage audiences with year-round activities. We pride ourselves on discovering the most promising new voices in African storytelling and bringing their work to screens, both in cinemas and online, as well as at outreach venues. For the first time in two years all films will be shown in selected cinemas in Cape Town and Johannesburg from 23 June to 3 July 2022.
Dir. Bianca Stigter
Netherlands/United Kingdom | 2021 | 69 min
This unique feature-length documentary consists entirely of three minutes of amateur home movie footage which briefly documents a Jewish community in Nasielsk, Poland, just a year before the Nazis invaded the town, eventually killing nearly everyone we see in the grainy moving images. By zooming in – sometimes literally, sometimes metaphorically – to the footage on a granular level, the film offers a forensic excavation of both the contents of these three minutes of film and the nature of film itself, how it has changed us and the ways we see and record history.
Set in the Italian town of Matera, where both Pasolini and Gibson’s films about the life of Christ were shot due to its visual similarity to Jerusalem, The New Gospel reframes the biblical narrative in the context of a profoundly unequal 21st Century and reclaims Jesus as a social revolutionary. Director Milo Rau reprises the elegance and power of Pasolini’s film but melds its narrative with the lives of the migrant farmworkers who live on the edge of Matera in inhumane conditions. Led by political activist Yvan Sagnet, the workers are fighting for the rights of migrants who came to Europe across the Mediterranean, only to be virtually enslaved in the tomato fields of Southern Italy.
This compassionate and feminist documentary, directed by the duo of Sarah Noa Bozenhardt and Daniel Abate Tilahun, goes into rural Ethiopia and follows the staff of a local health center fighting maternal mortality and bringing obstetric services to the women who need them. Among Us Women places the voices of the women front and centre as they identify the physical, cultural and structural factors that prevent them from accessing medical care during pregnancy and childbirth. It also bears witness to the resourcefulness and support groups that women have built for themselves across generations.
United States | 2021 | 118 min
Summer of Soul documents the Harlem Cultural Festival of 1969, an event that was almost erased from public consciousness. Along with contemporary interviews with those who attended and performed at the festival, and a careful evocation of the volatile cultural and political climate at the time, the film includes a collection of transcendent performances from some of the 20th century’s most important performers, including Sly and the Family Stone, Stevie Wonder, Mahalia Jackson, the Staple Singers and Nine Simone.
Dir. Meggan Raubenheimer.
South Africa | 2022 | 46 min
A South African born in the early 1900s when culture was religion, Manche Masemola died for
her Christian beliefs at the age of 15. Having become widely popular after her death and being
depicted in a statue above Westminster Abbey, London’s Great West Door, this intriguing documentary examines the events surrounding her death through interviews with the people who were familiar with the story and those from her village. Manche’s martyrdom sparks an important discussion about the arrival of German missionaries in South Africa and their impact on indigenous beliefs during the initial days of contact.
Dir. Nina Menkes
United States | 2022 | 107 min
Engaging with women and non-binary people across the film sector, Brainwashed: Sex-Camera-Power brilliantly explores the male gaze in cinema. Adapted from a lecture given by filmmaker Nina Menkes, this powerful documentary dissects the elements that contribute to the objectification of women by the camera, and the audience by extension. Menkes constructs the history of cinema, using more than 80 film clips from 1896 to 2020, centering the role of women on and off-screen and, accompanied by personal stories from actors, filmmakers, cinematographers and theorists, demonstrates the power of cinema in perpetuating sexism.
According to government officials, official remittances from Zimbabwe’s considerable diaspora population climbed well above $1 billion in 2021, providing a huge boost to the local economy. The bulk of these transactions are now made through mobile phones. Rumbi Katedza’s delightful yet sobering film personalizes these numbers by displaying the humanity and complexities behind official figures. Transactions follows a relatable Zimbabwean family with members scattered across the globe. From South Africa to the UK, Katedza investigates the causes and effects of migration, tracing the contradictions inherent via the lives of the family members living abroad but carrying home with them.
Dir. Simon Lereng Wilmot
Denmark/Ukraine | 2022 | 87 min
This delicately observed document of a halfway house in Eastern Ukraine, for children who have been removed from their parents, is gently transcendent despite its bleak subject matter. Following the lives of several of the children, the film allows its young protagonists to lead the way rather than imposing any preconceptions on them. Imbued with great kindness and made with a meditative beauty, the filmmakers do a remarkable job of allowing us glimpses into the children`s interior world. Despite the persistent backdrop of war and the violence of a fractured society, A House Made of Splinters makes no political commentary.
Dir. Jane Thandi Lipman, Peter Goldsmid
South Africa/Greece | 2021 | 90min
This insightful chronicle of the life of legendary human rights advocate, George Bizos, is a timely reminder of where we have come from and how we got to where we are as a country. From his early friendship with Nelson Mandela, to his central involvement in the Rivonia Trial and numerous other seminal legal events, to his role in the authoring of the South African constitution, Bizos’ life was so intimately linked to key political events that this film should be required viewing for anyone interested in the history of the country.
Dir. Inés Toharia Terán
Spain/Canada | 2021 | 119 min
This engrossing documentary explores film as an archive of human history, one which is vital that we preserve in all its rich diversity. It shows how the recorded image in all its forms – from cinema to home movies to corporate archives to YouTube videos – is one of our most important resources and the closest thing we have to a collective memory, and vital as a means of recording lived history. But all film formats – from celluloid to digital and everything in between decay, and it is up to the world’s preservationists to maintain the stability and integrity of this global memory bank.
This cultural history of Athlone, one of apartheid’s ‘dumping grounds’ for the victims of forced removals, is something of a delight, providing an intimate snapshot of a bygone era that continues to live in the hearts and imaginations of many of the town’s residents. At the film’s centre is the Kismet theatre.Making engaging use of contemporary interviews and historical anecdotes, the film manages to sidestep sentimentality and nostalgia in favour of an emotional realism.
This Side of Fabulous reveals the vibrant world of belly dancing by following a group of women from all walks of life as they use dance to reconnect with their minds and bodies.
It is a high-stakes mock legal battle played out in the constitutional court, where the prize is glory in a continent-wide contest called the African Moot. The story follows the emotional journey of Africa`s future human rights law students as they gather to debate the human rights issues currently facing Africa. We follow the fierce competitors as they analyse and present their arguments using real-life constitutional cases brought before African courts. It illustrates the experiences of participants by offering insights into their individual motivations, and by sharing their own personal stories relating to the competition themes of displacement and sexuality.
Set in still war-torn Belfast, Young Plato carefully documents headmaster Kevin McArevey’s attempt to place philosophy at the centre of his school, both in terms of the curriculum and a more general approach to education, including conflict resolution. In a community plagued by poverty, drugs and violence, and still haunted by the divisions of the past, the approach taken by McArevey and his dedicated team delivers rich, if incremental, dividends. The film celebrates the power of philosophy not as an esoteric concept but as an approach to dealing with the challenges of daily life and a way of questioning the mythologies and narratives around war and violence.
Dir. Gideon Breytenbach
South Africa | 2022 | 104 min
As an indigenous language of South Africa, The Voice Behind The Wall explores the history of
Afrikaans through its use in music. With the help of artists who contributed to Afrikaans’ cultural
development, this documentary aims to show how it evolved from working-class music of the
early 1930s to a voice advocating for the unjust apartheid system in the 1980s. It offers a socio-political perspective on Afrikaans music in the post-1930 era born out of an amalgamation of cultures, yet misrepresented by the National Party as a language of exclusive origin for propaganda purposes.
Akuol de Mabior’s illuminating debut feature length film is both personal reflection as well as historical excavation of a country’s troubled past. With No Simple Way Home, de Mabior, daughter of the late South Sudanese vice president and liberation hero John Garang de Mabior, reflects on her father’s outsized legacy and the country he left behind. Having been born and raised in exile, the filmmaker returns to the country of her parent’s birth, searching for her place in the new republic. Through intimate interviews de Mabior interrogates the idea of home as well as the sense of responsibility that she may have inherited from her parents.
Dir: Bernadette Wegenstein
United States | 2021 | 91 min
The Conductor illuminates the world of classical music performance today through the life of the astonishing internationally renowned conductor Marin Alsop. As one of the first female conductors, with stunning accomplishments including winning the MacArthur `Genius` Grant and currently holding the position of the music director of three orchestras internationally, the film reveals Alsop’s struggles and triumphs to reach the top. Alsop, raised by a family of musicians and trained from an early age, details her persistent drive to fulfill her dream as a conductor, despite the gendered limitations of this male-dominated field.