As the new Festival Director it is my great pleasure to welcome you to the 18th edition of the Encounters South African International Documentary Festival.

I’ll always remember my first ‘Encounter,’ a decade ago – a packed theatre with a rapt audience, participating in every shot, scene and sequence of the extraordinary documentary being screened. For me, the energy of people coming together to share, discuss and enjoy documentary cinema is the very essence of Encounters. This year’s programme flows from this and I invite you to experience what is on offer in the three key areas of the Festival.

Firstly, our film selection offers over 50 contemporary South African and International features and short documentaries amounting to some 140 screenings across Cape Town and Johannesburg. From Nadine Cloete’s highly anticipated debut, Action Kommandante, to Kirsten Johnson’s bold experiment in memoir, Cameraperson to Werner Herzog’s latest, Lo & Behold, you will certainly find a diverse offering.

In addition, our Industry Focus offers more opportunities for African filmmakers than ever before.  One particular highlight among our new international partnerships is Brief Encounters – an Online Short Documentary Pitching Forum & Development Prize in collaboration with Bertha Foundation and The Guardian. Also, look out for our fabulous lineup guest filmmakers participating in our Masterclass and Filmmaker in Conversation sessions.

Last but not least, this year’s Festival introduces a number of special events which expand our view of non-fiction storytelling: Virtual Encounters, an exhibition featuring the very latest in virtual reality and interactive documentary; African Space, an immersive and unforgettable non-fiction sound experience, and; two live concerts by UK electronic duo Darkstar.  All of these events suggest new ways and possibilities for documentary narratives to be imagined and experienced.

Certainly, without our generous funders, sponsors and friends this Festival would not be possible and we extend our deep gratitude to all of them. A special thanks is due to The National Film and Video Foundation and Bertha Foundation whose continued and generous support provides the bedrock of this Festival. Finally, I would, be remiss not to mention the wonderful and dedicated Encounters team and board for their support and guidance.

In closing it is with sadness we remember Professor Tim Dunne who passed away recently. Tim was a friend of the Festival and independently monitored the Audience Award results. He will be greatly missed.

Thank you and I look forward to meeting you at the Festival!

Darryl Els
Festival Director