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Siyanamkela! Willkommen! Bienvenue ! Welcome to the Encounters South African International Documentary Festival 20th Edition, Halala Encounters, Halala!!!!

Encounters and I share a very special relationship, in 2004 Nodi and Sharon met me at the Apollo Theatre in Victoria West during a time of crisis, they scooped me up, brought me to Cape Town and trained me to manage the 2004 Apollo Film Festival, thus began a long-lasting friendship and relationship. With the training and support received from the entire Encounters team, I have since organised the Apollo Film Festival and Encounters Outreach Programme in 2005, and was employed as an Events Coordinator by the Economic Development Department from 2010 to 2017…  and now, I’m back – as a Guest Festival Director. I am eternally grateful for that first encounter.

This year marks a milestone as we celebrate the Festival’s 20 years existence, it’s been a journey, we have watched 1000s of films, screened 100s and played host to as many filmmakers over those years. This year we will screen 70 titles, 43 features – 7 World Premières among them – and a wealth of South African short films. We are grateful to all the filmmakers for their inspired work, and we will host as many as 16 international guests, 27 local feature makers and 22 short filmmakers. It’s a bumper year, and all done on a tiny budget!

The number of films made by women, and about women, is heartening in this #metoo world, for it cannot escape our attention that men have dominated, still dominate, our local industry. Notable among these films are:

  • the HotDocs Special Jury winner Whispering Truth to Power by Shameela Seedat about Thuli Madonsela’s last 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.
  • Karin Slater’s Sisters of the Wilderness focuses on the cultural and spiritual journey of five Zulu women who explore the bush for the first time.
  • Slavery Routes will be presented by one of our international guests Fanny Glissant, who travels courtesy of the French Institute in South Africa.
  • Matangi / Maya / M.I.A is the biopic of the Sri Lankan-British rapper Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam. The musician/filmmaker is headed to South Africa! Her documentary is a tale of one who is fighting forever, a one-woman awkward squad whose background, both economically and racially, means she’s not allowed to get too popular. M.I.A will perform in both Cape Town and Johannesburg and will attend certain screenings and do a Q&A. Check the schedule for Q&As and www.mia.blackmajor.co.za for concert details. We will be giving away 3 x 2 tix for the concerts… you’ll have to be in a M.I.A. screening to win these…
  • In the South African shorts section Hannah Rafkin & Meg Robbins’ In Stitches and Suzanne Moody’s Kill or Die both tickle the funny bone whilst raising two very poignant issues – that of vernacular stand-up and the struggles of comedians.

This year also marks the centenary of the Father of the Nation, Nelson Mandela, and we are pleased to honour u Tataby screening the Oscar nominated Mandela by Joe Mennel and Angus Gibson. It focusses 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 Braam Fischer and George Bizos.

Our other international guests include

Johannes List, director of Tackling Life, travels courtesy of DOK.fest München. Tackling Lifehas just won the Audience Award at that festival. List will conduct a Masterclass at Cape Peninsula University of Technology.

Nicolas Steiner presents his award-winning graduation film Above and Below, and a Masterclass at UCT. He travels courtesy of the Swiss Consulate General that also funds our Filmmakers Cocktail function.

Greg Elmer, director of The Canadian Delegation, travels under his own steam, but is accommodated with the assistance of the Canadian High Commission.

Chivas DeVinck, also visiting us under his own steam all the way from New York, will present his film The Poets, featuring the West African wordsmiths Syl Cheney-Coker and Niyi Osundare.

I must mention Survivors here, set in Sierra Leone it is an extraordinary account of a community’s response to the Ebola crisis. And… the filmmakers chose us at the Festival for their World Première, and… they, the filmmakers – Arthur Pratt, Banker White and Anna Fitch – they too are funding their own trip. We are delighted in their investment in our Festival.

As audience engagement is critical to any festival Encounters filmmakers Q&As are a key activity, and you, the audience decide the winners of the Backsberg Encounters Audience Awards for Best South African feature and Best International feature. For the second year running we will present the EYE Jury Award for the Best South African short film and a runner up. These will receive cash awards from Ster Kinekor.

Both the HCI Foundation and the City of Cape Town assist Encounters with our Inreach wherein we provide transport and tickets for Previously Disadvantaged Individuals, community organisations and students.

The Bertha Movie House, Isivivana Centre in Khayelitsha, affords funding for Encounters and free screenings. They also assist with local transport for those interested in attending screenings there.

We support filmmakers through our Industry programmes – workshops and masterclasses that are focussed on transforming the Industry, creating opportunities and training for practitioners and hopefuls alike. Planned for this year are:

  • an Editing Masterclass in collaboration with the SA Guild of Editors (S.A.G.E).
  • the DOCi films produced on this workshop will be screened on Saturday 9 June 3pm at Cinema Nouveau V&A.
  • the Impact Bootcamp in collaboration Film & Media Studies UCT and the Bertha Foundation
  • the Documentary Filmmakers Association’s Dok-Tour Workshop.

Full information on the masterclasses and workshops is under the INDUSTRY tab on the website.

This Festival is made possible by the generous contributions of:

  • The Bertha Foundation
  • The National Film & Video Foundation
  • The City of Cape Town
  • The Bertha Movie House
  • WESGRO
  • United States Consulate General Cape Town and American Film Showcase
  • Embassy of Switzerland in South Africa and Consulate General of Switzerland in Cape Town
  • Institute Français Afrique du Sud
  • The Canadian High Commission
  • DOK.fest München
  • Backsberg Wine Estate
  • Goethe Institut
  • HCI Foundation
  • Cinema Nouveau Ster Kinekor
  • Refinery
  • SAGE
  • DFA
  • Big Fish school of digital filmmaking
  • Labia Theatre
  • The Bioscope
  • The Nomadic Orchestra
  • Protea Hotel Fire & Ice!
  • The University of Cape Town

In Xhosa, Enkosi, thank you, is the singular most important word – in saying so you convey not only your appreciation but also extend your blessings.

To all the funders of this Festival, all of our partners in the different relationships we share and the Board of Encounters I say enkosi kakhulu, for such a glorious opportunity. I’m deeply humbled.

A happy 20 years to you all, to all the filmmakers, the embassies of this world, to all the people that will be attending, and the most wonderful staff and volunteers of Encounters who have used all their strengths and efforts to pull this event together.

Enkosi filmmakers, patrons, staff, volunteers, past and present and into the future, Enkosi.

— Reggie Khanzi
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