Africa is in the spotlight again at Encounters as unique perspectives from the continent are offered up across the program in this year’s line-up. In Sakawa, directed by Ben Asamoah, we’re given an eye-opening look inside the world of Ghana’s great internet scam industry through the eyes of the scammers themselves; The Letter, by producer-director duo Christopher King and Maia Lekow, gives insight into a young man’s journey to his grandmother’s rural home when he learns she’s been accused of witchcraft. Director Chris van der Vorm heads to the fascinating area of Makoko in Lagos to meet one of its most colourful characters in Mrs. F; and in Beyond my Steps by director Kamy Lara we get a look into the performance of and the rehearsals leading up to a dance piece from an Angolan dance troupe. The film focuses on five dancers who explore the concepts of tradition, culture, memory and identity.
Viewers have a number of exciting South African political documentaries to look forward to as well. In Underground to the Corridors of Power by director Teddy Mattera we get a critical look into the formation of the National Union of Miners (NUM), centering on the miners’ struggle for a living wage and better working conditions. Two very different views of South Africa since 1994 also emerge from Sifiso Khanyile’s A New Country that argues that the dream of the rainbow nation is a fallacy and that the legacy of apartheid is still in place, while Good Hope directed by Anthony Fabian is an optimistic film that looks at 36 dynamic South Africans working to grapple with these changes. Rehad Desai’s How to Steal a Country goes in-depth to uncover the alleged corruption scandal surrounding former President Jacob Zuma and the Gupta Family.
South African culture, history and sport also get unpacked at this year’s festival across a diverse mix of new films. I’m still in love with Kwaito by Enzo Slaghuis follows Hip-Hop Pioneer ‘Enzo’ Tema on a nostalgic look at his love for Kwaito. Listen to My Song by Glenn Ujebe Masokoane is the first tribute to supremely talented jazz musician and composer Gideon Nxumalo (1929-1970). Two new documentaries go into the story of South African dance with San Dance going to the heart of San dance culture, directed by Richard Wicksteed and Rumba in the Jungle directed by Yolanda Keabetswe Mogatusi taking a look into the highly competitive Sun City dance competition. On the sport front, Blindside takes a look at the 1974 boycott-breaking British Lions tour of South Africa against the Springbok rugby team. South Africa’s health also gets an intriguing treatment in Tin Soldiers by director Odette Schwegler, about people living with one of the world’s rarest and most debilitating diseases. And the historical look at the old railway town of Hutchinson and its subsequent deterioration and abandonment in Hutchinson: Shunted is a fascinating snapshot of very small-town life during apartheid.
The best documentaries from around the globe bring the rest of the world into focus in the following films
Bellingcat: Truth in a Post Truth World director Hans Pool follows a small group of self-appointed citizen investigators who uncover the key about recent news events; i.e. Shooting down of a Malaysian airliner over Ukraine, Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, and the poisoning of the former Russian Military officer in Salisbury, England
King of Cruise centres on the larger than life, insecure Baron Ronald Busch Reisinger as he tries to get the attention of romantic couples, wealthy families, and ship’s crews with stories that may or may not be true.
Pioneering filmmaker Agnes Varda tells her own story in Varda by Agnes made last year just before her death at 90.
Displaced is a master class in personal documentary filmmaking! The film explores the experience of a third generation Holocaust survivor in Berlin.
The Swiss Focus includes Il Mio Corpo that tells the stories of Oscar, a young working class Sicilian boy and Stanley, a Nigerian refugee; Kombinat is the account of three families who live in the polluted Russian City of Magnitogorsk, home of Kombinat, one of the largest iron and steel factories in the country:
and Madame –that explores the powerful relationship between Caroline, a 90 year old grandmother and her gay filmmaker grandson Stephane as they engage in an intimate conversation
Other South African films to look forward to include Help or Hinderance? The Sullivan Principles in Apartheid South Africa by director Sharon Farr; Woman Hold Up the Sky: African women rise for climate justice by Yaba Badoe and Sharon Farr; Walking in Stellenbosch by director Sarah Marecek; And A Feast in the Time of Plague, examines the artistic responses by state-funded theatre-makers to the apartheid state, focusing on those who worked in the Cape Performing Arts Board (CAPAB) between 1970 and 1990.
But these are just a few of the films to add to your watching calendar. Stay up-to-date with the exciting developments happening at Encounters 2020, and get the full program by heading to 2020.encounters.co.za