‘Influence’ selected to open the Encounters 2020 Festival

A scene from ’Influence’, which opens the 22nd Encounters South African International Documentary Festival. Picture: Supplied

A scene from ’Influence’, which opens the 22nd Encounters South African International Documentary Festival. Picture: Supplied

Published Aug 20, 2020


Several remarkable documentaries will be premiering at the 22nd Encounters International Documentary Film Festival, which runs from August 20 - 30.

Due to Covid-19, this year’s event takes place on a virtual platform.

’Influence’ by Richard Poplak & Diana Neille, which explores the dark art of geopolitical spin-doctoring, premieres on August 20 at 6pm, followed by a panel discussion at 7.50pm.

’Influence’ charts the recent advancements in weaponised communication by investigating the rise and fall of the world’s most notorious public relations and reputation-management firm, the British multinational, Bell Pottinger.

The film examines how the morally slippery Timothy Bell and his associates shaped and co-opted the very institutions on which our governance systems are premised, quietly entrenching one of the most sophisticated — and successful — business ventures of recent times.

“Influence” is the kind of film that makes you question everything, suggesting that we now live in a time when both the structures of our society and the very texture of our lives can be defined, designed and manipulated by powerful and secretive forces.

The festival showcases the freshest content from the world’s great, as well as local up-and-coming, documentary film-makers.

Best of all, the 2020 festival program will be making almost all films on the program free-of-charge to view on virtual platforms.

This year’s line-up lives up to expectations with several remarkable offerings.More great political documentaries include “The Kingmaker” by director Lauren Greenfield which unveils the shady political career of the notorious Imelda Marcos, the former Philippines first lady who, together with her husband, reigned over the country with an iron fist while pillaging its wealth.


Highly-anticipated international releases will also take audiences on a journey around the world’s best documentaries.

“Banksy Most Wanted” by directors Aurélia Rouvier & Seamus Haley tells the story of the world’s most famous graffiti artist, beginning with the now-notorious Sotheby’s auction in which Banksy’s most iconic work, Girl with a Balloon, was instantly shredded by a mechanism in its frame just seconds after the auction hammer fell.

Providing an account of the artist’s rise to fame, while documenting the various forensic investigations that have attempted to solve the mystery of Banksy’s true identity, the film is an art documentary at its most engaging.

In the Oscar nominated and BAFTA-winning “For Sama” (UK/Syria), journalist Waad al-Kateab & filmmaker Edward Watts give a powerful account of the war in Syria and the systematic destruction of Aleppo from a first-person perspective.

Gaza by directors Garry Keane & Andrew McConnel also focuses on the region to document the richness of the culture that exists amidst that violence.

And in “Advocate” by Rachel Leah Jones & Philippe Bellaïche the film looks at the inspiring life of Jewish-Israeli advocate Lea Tsemel, who has worked tirelessly for nearly 50 years defending Palestinians against charges laid by the Israeli state.

Some of the world’s greatest artists and literary figures are being celebrated at Encounters 2020.

“Toni Morrison: The Pieces I am” by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders explores one of the most important writers in modernity with a series of in-depth interviews.

Commentary from the likes of Angela Davis, Oprah Winfrey, Fran Lebowitz, Hilton Als and others brings a different dimension to the film.

“Cunningham” by Alla Kovgan looks at the work of avant-garde dancer Merce Cunningham by blending recreations of Cunningham’s landmark works with rich archival footage garnered from over three decades.

Viewers can look forward to a diverse selection of some of Africa’s best films. “In Days of Cannibalism”, Tennessee-based director Teboho Edkins reveals the expanding Chinese presence in poverty-stricken rural Lesotho.

Kenyan director Sam Soko explores corruption in Africa in Softie, which premiered at Sundance, and illustrates the extent of political interference in Nairobi through the eyes of Boniface Mwangi — who is Kenya’s top photojournalist, anti-corruption campaigner and human rights activist.

“Mother to Mother” by Sara CF de Gouveia beautifully dramatises the novel of the same name written by Sindiwe Magona about the murder of Amy Biehl.

But these are just a small selection of the films coming to Encounters 2020 — Africa’s leading documentary festival.

For the 22nd year of the beloved documentary festival, Encounters will be making almost all films on the program free-of-charge to view on virtual platforms from 20 -30 August.

To see the full program head to the refreshed Encounters website and to register and make your reservations, make sure to head to virtual.encounters.co.za.

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