The 24th edition of the Encounters South African International Documentary Festival unveils the first four South African films to be screened this year. For the first time in two years all films will be shown in selected cinemas in Cape Town and Johannesburg from 23 June to 3 July 2022.
The Opening night film is the much-anticipated homage to Joseph Shabalala and his legendary music group, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Music is My Life and receives its World Premiere at Encounters 2022.
Directed by emerging young filmmaker Mpumi “Supa” Ngcuka, a graduate of the Chelsea Arts School, New York Film Academy and the AAA, who has worked predominantly in commercials, Music is My Life is the ‘official story’ of the iconic doyenne of South Africa’s unique isicathamiya ( acapella) sound and the music group that infused itself into the heart of a nation and the world.
Music is My Life tells how Shabalala overcame adversity to follow his dream and spread his rare vocal style, rooted in the Zulu Nation, to the rest of the world – creating an inimitable musical and cultural legacy. But the film delves deeper than this, using unseen archival footage and exclusive interviews with Joseph and the Shabalala family and stars like Paul Simon, Oprah Winfrey and Dolly Parton. The film follows the journey of Shabalala’s life from humble beginnings in the village of Ladysmith to the global stage with more than 50 studio albums, multiple awards, including five Grammys, the historic runaway success with four songs on Paul Simon’s Graceland album during the dark days of Apartheid. It’s no wonder Nelson Mandela said that it was their powerful musical message of hope that kept him going.
Two of South Africa’s premier documentary filmmakers, Emmy Award nominated Simon Wood (Container; Scenes from a Dry City) and Emmy Award winner Francois Vester (The Lions Trail and Shahrazad) tackle a story that has gripped South Africa from the late ‘90’s until today. Girl Taken reveals the incredulous story of parents whose baby was stolen at birth, miraculously found 17 years later and then “lost” again in the messy aftermath of the discovery. The much-covered story is about the disappearance of 3-day old Zephany Nurse, who later, in an unbelievable coincidence, meets her sister at school, ultimately revealing what had transpired. The happy ending, which her biological parents had longed for, did not happen. The film tells a tale of hope and loss, of a broken family battling their way towards finding togetherness again, and explores the concept of nature and nurture.
The prolific multiple award winning documentary filmmaker Jane Lipman brings us an intimate portrait of George Bizos Icon in another African Premiere for the Festival. A thirteen-year-old Greek village boy and refugee from Nazi occupied Greece becomes a South African and international icon. The film documents his journey to becoming a South African human rights and constitutional lawyer through the brutality of the apartheid years. He defended heroes such as Steve Biko and Chris Hani. George Bizos’ work in the democratic era shows his passionate, unrelenting and lifelong fight for justice.
Director Lipman was given unprecedented access to previously unseen national audio and video archive material with his family and at the Rivonia Trial for the film. The importance of the rule of law and constitutionalism is highlighted with interviews with luminaries such as ex Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke and Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi. In his final years, Bizos saw his role at the Marikana commission as also representing the world famous South African constitution. George Bizos was famous for saying “You either succumb or you fight back” and he applied that maxim until his dying days.
Shameela Seedat, whose award winning film about Thuli Madonsela entitled Whispering Truth to Power opened Encounters in 2018, returns to the festival with African Moot, straight from revered Canadian documentary festival, Hot Docs. African Moot delves into the complexities of the global legal world, as aspiring lawyers gather for the annual African Human Rights Moot Court Competition.
For one week in Gaborone, Botswana, a collection of young lawyers assembled for the competition. They represent the top law schools from their respective nations as they debate a new issue each year. This time around, the focus is on the rights of refugees. Developing arguments that will be judged by practicing lawyers, the next generation of lawyers discovers what policy should be like in the African context, and where advancements can be made across the region.
More films will be announced in the upcoming weeks. The following cinemas will be screening the 2022 Encounters’ line-up: In Cape Town – The Labia Theatre, The Bertha House Mowbray, and The Bertha Movie House Isivivana Community Centre Khayelitsha. In Johannesburg – The Bioscope Independent Cinema and CineCentre Killarney.