Bold films on offer at 24th Encounters South African International Documentary Festival

The film ‘The New Gospel’ goes searching for a modern moral response to the world in which we live. Picture: Supplied

The film ‘The New Gospel’ goes searching for a modern moral response to the world in which we live. Picture: Supplied

Published Jun 12, 2022


For the first time in two years the 24th Encounters South African International Documentary Festival is set to showcase a variety of films in-person.

Films will be shown in selected cinemas in Cape Town and Johannesburg for the duration of the event, which runs from June 23 to July 3.

In a time of growing global nationalism, political upheaval and uncertainty, the voice of resistance features strongly in several films screening in this year’s line-up.

Hard-hitting thriller-doccies and uplifting music-themed films, humanitarian and social justice centred films are order of the day

Here’s what’s in store for viewers:

Award-winning doccie, “Navalny“, directed by Daniel Rohr, is a gripping fly-on-the-wall documentary thriller, shot as the story unfolds, about anti-authoritarian Russian opposition leader, Alexei Navalny.

‘Navalny’. Picture: Supplied

Recovering in Berlin after nearly being poisoned to death with the nerve agent Novichok, he makes shocking discoveries about his assassination attempt and bravely decides to return home, whatever the consequences.

“Summer Of Soul” is a true scoop for the festival.

Directed by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, the film won the 2022 Academy Award for best documentary and 2022 Bafta Award for best documentary.

“Summer Of Soul”. Picture: Supplied

The powerful and transporting piece is part-music and part-historical record around black history, culture and fashion in the late 1960s.

The footage of the 1969 The Harlem Cultural Festival in New York was never seen and largely forgotten until now and the film features incredible performances by Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Sly and the Family Stone, Hugh Masekela, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Ray Baretto, Max Roach and Abbey Lincoln, among others.

“The Conductor”, directed by Bernadette Wegenstein, tracks the success of the internationally renowned conductor Marin Alsop, who knew from an early age that she wanted to conduct and was fortunate enough to be mentored by Leonard Bernstein.

The film traces her trajectory through life, in which she reflects on her career in a male-dominated profession.

This film is presented in association with the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra.

“Cesaria Évora” looks at a barefoot diva, who refused to wear shoes, even in Carnegie Hall, as a show of solidarity with the poor in her country.

Directed by Ana Sofia Fonseca, the film offers rare footage and recordings of her music, following Evora from her island childhood in Cabo Verde, formerly a major hub for the slave trade, to grand performances around the world.

“In Three Minutes – A Lengthening” is comprised of footage taken in Poland in 1938 by David Kurtz, who had returned to the place of his birth and filmed in the area where many of the Jewish families lived.

In 2009, this footage was found by his grandson, who passed it on to the Holocaust Museum in Washington.

It is narrated by Helena Bonham Carter.

“Young Plato”, directed by Neasa Ni Chianin and Declan McGrath, is an inspiring documentary that charts the dream of maverick and Elvis-loving school headmaster Kevin McArevey, who is determined to change the fortunes of an inner-city community plagued by urban decay, sectarian aggression, poverty, and drugs.

“The New Gospel” goes searching for a modern moral response to the world in which we live. In it film-maker Milo Rau asks: What would Jesus be preaching in the 21st century?”

“Brainwashed: Sex-Camera- Power” uses film clips by A-list directors from the 1940s to the present to show how the visual grammar of cinema contributes to conditions that create discriminatory hiring practice, pay inequity and a pervasive environment of sexual harassment in the film industry and beyond.

“The Living Record of our Memory” by Inés Toharia Terán, is a love letter to film archivists, curators, and restorers all over the world.

It shows how the recorded image in all its forms – from cinema to home movies to corporate archives to YouTube videos – is one of our most important resources and the closest thing we have to a collective memory, and vital as a means of recording lived history.

“A House Made Of Splinters” delicately observes a halfway house for children in Eastern Ukraine who have been removed from their parents. It is gently transcendent, despite its bleak subject matter.

Films will be shown in Cape Town at The Labia Theatre, The Bertha House Mowbray and The Bertha Movie House Isivivana Community Centre in Khayelitsha. In Johannesburg viewers can enjoy films at The Bioscope Independent Cinema and CineCentre Killarney.