Documentaries centred around belonging and home, where roots formerly were and where they are now, of relationship – money- and life’s transactions, of defiance, of sacrifices, found love and success feature in a gripping selection of African and South African documentaries for the 24th Encounters South African International Documentary Festival, which takes place in cinemas in Cape Town and Johannesburg from 23 June to 3 July 2022.
Looking for roots, winner of the 2021 DOK.horizonte prize at DOK.fest München 2022, No Simple Way Home (Kenya/South Africa) directed by Akuol de Mabior, is a personal film in which de Mabior pays tribute to her parents and her home country – South Sudan. Her father, John Garang de Mabior, was a revolutionary leader whose movement led to the foundation of South Sudan, and her mother, Rebecca Nyandeng de Mabior, became one of the five vice presidents of the country’s so-called unity government in 2020.
In No U-Turn, celebrated Nigerian filmmaker Ike Nnaebue retraces his steps of a journey he made almost 30 years ago, to flee Africa, to find out what motivates people today to expose themselves to the dangers of a passage into an uncertain future. Described by Anietie Ewang, Researcher, Africa Division, Human Rights Watch as “a strong documentary that provides answers to questions around the motivations for migrating and experiences on the journey.”
Zimbabwean director Rumbi Katedza explores the phenomenon which saw the Diaspora population transact well above $1 billion in 2021 providing a huge boost to the local economy, with the bulk of these made through mobile phones. In Transactions, a delightful yet sobering film, the filmmaker personalises these numbers by displaying the humanity and complexities behind official figures. The film follows a Zimbabwean family with members scattered across the globe.
Among Us Women (Ethiopia/Germany) directed by Sarah Noa Bozenhardt and Daniel Abate Tilabun holds a light to health centre staff in rural Ethiopia who are fighting maternal mortality. Appealing to women to give birth in the clinic they are battling against the odds, with traditional reservations and practical obstacles.
Joseph Dégramon Ndjom’s The Prison Promise (Cameroon/France) follows a couple who fell in love in prison, and after their release reunited with one of their family’s in Cameroon’s rural countryside to try to find their way back into society. The film offers a portrait of love and community as the couple navigate their reintegration into normal society, highlighting the role of the family and of community in rehabilitating people who have had challenges with the law.
The Double Futures of Athlone (SA) is a delightful film by Premesh Lalu that provides an intimate snapshot of a bygone era that continues to live in the hearts and imaginations of many of Athlone’s residents. At the film’s centre is the Kismet theatre, which once acted as both the local bioscope and as a performance venue for the rich musical talent of the time. A delicate account of history, in the film’s own words, “what’s left of the memory of the future”.
In current news, as debate rages around the relevance of the Afrikaans Taal Monument, Gideon Breytenbach’s The Voice Behind The Wall (SA) comes as an interesting exploration of the politics of the language for the people who speak it. The Voice Behind The Wall is a conscientious examination of the Afrikaans music industry and the racial imbalances that still persist almost 30 years since the abolishment of Apartheid. Poet and rapper, Churchil Naudé, stands as a surrogate for a whole community of ignored artists, whose voices are now oppressed by the very same media industry that was guilty of using its powerful platform to further the white cause during apartheid. These voices, a whole community of voices behind the wall.
The Radical (SA), directed by Richard Gregory, is an intimate portrait of the world’s first openly gay imam – Muhsin Hendricks – who was a fashion designer who determined that Islam could be interpreted more compassionately, and became the religious leader at the centre of the global queer Muslim movement. Despite death threats and opposition, he established a radically inclusive mosque in Cape Town. Now, he fights for the rights of LGBTQI+ Muslims in what he calls a “care-frontational” manner in the African countries where they are outlawed.
South African director Riaan Hendricks’ Tear Salted Sea weaves together accounts of sailors operating on the South African coastline to reveal how they relate to the sea as a community of people. This captivating and heartfelt account features interviews with survivors of a storm in which some died, to reveal how the sea has shaped their paths 10 years after its tragic events.
Nominated for the IDFA Award for Best First Feature in 2021, One Take Grace is an engagingly idiosyncratic film that introduces us to 58-year-old Black South African woman who has worked as a domestic worker and decides in her 40s that she would like to become an actress. Shot over 10 years by multidisciplinary artist and director Lindiwe Matshikiza and collaborators, the result is an immersive adventure in surrealism, although strongly linked to the lived reality of the many South Africans who work in other people’s houses at the expense of their own family life.
Lobola, A Bride’s True Price? (SA) follows the journey of eSwatini filmmaker Sihle Hlophe who, faced with the impending approach of her marriage, questions the notion of lobola in the face of her feminist beliefs and her anti-patriarchal stance. Will she turn her back on Lobola or will she embrace it?
Manche Masemola, a Pedi girl died for her Christian beliefs at the age of 15 in Sekhukhuneland. Having become widely popular after her death, she is depicted in a statue above Westminster Abbey, London’s Great West Door. In this intriguing documentary Manche, The African Martyr, Meggan Raubenheimer and Manche descendant Letebele Masemola examine the events surrounding her death through interviews with the people who were familiar with the story and those from her village. Masemola, who drives the narrative, reflects on this bold story as a journey to her ancestral homeland to rediscover her identity in relation to her cultural beliefs.
The following cinemas will be screening the 2022 Encounters’ line-up: In Cape Town – The Labia, The Bertha Movie House Isivivana Centre Khayelitsha, Bertha House Mowbray. In Johannesburg-CineCentre Killarney and The Independent Bioscope.
For further information go to the Encounters website www.encounters.co.za; follow on social media or contact Joy Sapieka & Associates on +27(0)73 2125492 firstname.lastname@example.org / Joyls@nullmweb.co.za