The Encounters South African International Documentary Film Festival kicks off today, with new films by Oscar-winner Michael Moore and veteran German filmmaker Werner Herzog taking centre stage.
Where to Invade Next? is Moore’s first film in seven years. Armed with a giant US flag, Moore imagines himself as a one-man invading force entering other countries, to see what America can learn from them.
Fresh from the Sundance Film Festival Lo & Behold: Reveries of a Connected World is Werner Herzog’s wild ride through connectivity and technology, narrated with the dry wit and curiosity which are trademarks of the veteran filmmaker.
According to Festival Director Darryl Els, the Encounters line up “also includes the world premieres of some ground-breaking and politically relevant South African documentaries, plus several new South African voices, including a number of compelling debuts”.
One of those is Soweto: Times of Wrath, which opens the festival tonight at the V&A Cinema Nouveau. Made by a group of young Sowetan filmmakers - Siphamandla Bongwana, Jerry Obakeng Gaegane, Stanford Gibson, Nduzo Shandu, Asanda Kupa and Gontse More – the film concentrates on those excluded from the so-called South African dream more than 20 years into democracy.
Nadine Cloete makes her debut feature with Action Kommandt: The Untold Story of the Revolutionary Fighter Ashley Kriel. Kriel – referred to as “the Che Guevara of Bonteheuwel”, was 20 years old when he was murdered by Apartheid police in 1987. His case has recently been re-opened by the Hawks.
Along with a variety of short films, other notable documentary features on offer include:
The Shadow World –an international feature documentary on the arms trade based on the former ANC MP Andrew Feinstein’s controversial book.
Maya Angelou and Still I Rise – a heart-breaking portrait of the achingly meaningful story that created one of America’s finest writers.
Alison – a hybrid feature documentary on rape survivor Alison Botha, which uses a fairytale aesthetic to explore Botha’s story.
Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures, which traces the controversial artist from his middle-class, small-town upbringing to his success in the 1980s New York art world, and his death in 1989 from Aids-related illness.
This year, Encounters is also introducing The Dutch Focus – three exceptional contemporary Dutch films – following on a recent signing of a co-production treaty between South Africa and the Netherlands.
One of these films is Strike a Pose – a provocative look at the off-stage antics of the seven back-up dancers who accompanied pop star Madonna on her Blonde Ambition World Tour in 1990.
Encounters, now in its 18th year, runs from 2 to 12 June at the V&A Cinema Nouveau and Labia in Cape Town, and the Rosebank Cinema Nouveau and the Bioscope in Johannesburg.