It’s a pleasure to welcome you to the 19th Encounters South African International Documentary Festival and another offering of an extraordinary, wide-ranging selection of nonfiction experiences.

We have selected over 70 local and international features and shorts, ranging from the urgently political to the performance of the personal. These films reflect and refract the current state of our World, at times challenging documentary orthodoxies, always offering different visions of this uncertain time.

Encounters is proud to screen no fewer than 32 South African films and 19 World Premières and we are especially delighted to present Aliki Sargas’ Strike a Rock for our opening night feature. With its themes of friendship, community and resilience, this patient film tells of the extraordinary women working for political change in the wake of the Marikana massacre. It is a film that bears witness to our current socio-political crossroads and testament to the necessity of political documentary filmmaking in South Africa.

Highlights from our international selection include premières of acclaimed films, among them Raoul Peck’s masterpiece, I Am Not Your Negro, Yance Ford’s Strong Island and the acclaimed Last Men in Aleppo.  In keeping with the spirit of international dialogue offered by the recent South African Focus at Visions du Réel in Nyon, Encounters presents an exciting focus on contemporary Swiss documentary films.

2nd Virtual Encounters Exhibition

The shifting shape of documentary is evident in the 2nd Virtual Encounters – Virtual Reality and Interactive documentary exhibition in Cape Town and Johannesburg, and generously supported by the Goethe Institut Johannesburg. This year the lineup includes the SA première of the New Dimensions project which features VR productions from Kenya, Senegal, Ghana and South Africa.

Industry & Youth Programmes

Our Industry and Training programme offers over 4 days of events including the inaugural Rough Cut Lab, in partnership with Refinery Cape Town and the South African Guild of Editors, that will offer 3 teams of directors & editors the opportunity for expert problem solving advice as they head for the completion of their films. The 6th Encounters-Al Jazeera Pitch again offers South African filmmakers the chance to engage with an international broadcaster. With the absence of a functioning national public broadcaster, Encounters continues to work to broker opportunities for local documentary filmmakers.

We are delighted to announce several programmes aimed at younger audiences and filmmakers. The first, the Encounters Youth Jury, is presented in partnership with Ster Kinekor and will see a jury of young film enthusiasts deliver the EYE Best South African Short Film Award and cash prizes for two winners. The Festival also launches the Encounters Youth Experience, screenings and workshops aimed at bringing South African documentary to younger viewers and,  finally, the Encounters Emerging Filmmakers Project, supported by the City of Cape Town, will create access to the Festival – transport and entrance fees – for the next generation filmmakers.

We know that you will enjoy the challenging, provocative, inspirational and entertaining selection on offer, and the opportunity to engage with the 35 filmmakers who will present their films at the Festival.

Encounters wishes to express its sincere gratitude to its funders and supporters, in particular the National Film and Video Foundation and Bertha Foundation, for their continued support. And we welcome our new screening partner, the Bertha Movie House at the Isivivana Centre in Khayelitsha.

Darryl Els
Festival Director