Strike A Rock, the ground-breaking feature that follows the stories of a group of often forgotten women fighting for justice after the massacre at Marikana has won the Backsberg Audience Award for best local film at this years Encounters South African International Documentary Festival which ended on the 11th June .

The film is directed by young up-and-coming Johannesburg director Aliki Saragas.

The loss of brothers, husbands, fathers and friends at the hands of the South African Police in August 2012 shattered not only their hope of a living wage but brought about a brutal realisation that the ANC “murdered its own people”. Leader and hero of Marikana’s Wonderkop community, now recently elected EFF Member of Parliament Primrose Sonti and Thumeka Magwanquana, her ally and best friend in the struggle for social justice, say nothing has changed in the community since before the strike and massacre.

Primrose and Thumeka unite the women and organise the delivery of a petition to Lonmin to register their demands. Now living in Cape Town, Sonti is pictured in Parliament fighting for justice wearing a red domestic workers’ uniform and gum boots, representing the forgotten voices of Marikana – the women whom she left behind. Despite their attempts to engage, Lonmin did not listen to the women of Marikana’s demands for decent homes, running water and basic healthcare. By 2012 Lonmin was supposed to have built 5,500 homes under its 2006 Social and Labour Plan, but instead only built three show houses. The women believe that the state’s indifference to their plight and its lack of leadership in bringing about any meaningful socio-economic transformation since the massacre has led to militant activism with strong local women at the forefront – united as social justice advocacy group Sikhale Sonke under Thumeka’s leadership when Primrose fights the political battles in the corridors of power.. Now the women hope that their united voices will at last be heard all the way from the koppies of Marikana across South Africa and beyond.

The Eagle Huntress the BAFTA nominated awe-inspiring movie was chosen as best International film by Encounters’ Audiences .

The film is the true story of 13-year-old Aisolpan Nurgaiv, who became the first female in 12 generations of her nomadic Kazakh family to learn how to become an eagle hunter. Set in remote parts of Mongolia, sometimes in sub-zero temperatures, the enchanting tale was commended for its breathtaking cinematography The documentary is the debut feature of US-based British director Otto Bell and is narrated by Daisy Ridley (Star Wars: The Force Awakens).

Encounters ran from the 1st – 11th June 2017 in two cities – Cape Town and Johannesburg. The line-up consisted of over 70 films plus special events for film lovers and filmmakers which ran throughout the Festival, these included Virtual Encounters a virtual reality and interactive documentary exhibition curated by Electric South’s Ingrid Kopp, the Swiss Focus, American Film Showcase, Al Jazeera Pitching Forum, Workshops and Masterclasses.

This year’s festival proved that there’s an audience hungry for quality documentary films. We saw strong audience responses to a wide variety of films, including Strike a Rock, The Eagle Huntress, The Fall, Deep Blue Middle C, Whose Streets, Winnie, Dragans’s Lair, Last Men in Aleppo, I Am Not Your Negro and Goldblatt.

Festival director Darryl Els

Wesgro Film and Media was a partner in Encounters’ extensive industry program of masterclasses and business to business events.

It is great to see emerging and established industry use this platform’s extensive opportunities to grow their global footprint. The selection of films was first class.

Yaw Peprah Chief Business Officer

It was great to take part in the extensive industry programme, and hear great exchanges throughout the pitches and masterclass panel sessions which should support the growth of projects and companies.

Wesgro Head of Film and Media Promotion, Monica Rorvik