Encounters Newsletter June 2024

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Steven Markovitz stepping down from the Encounters Board

Encounters Board, Strategy Workshop 2023

Steven Markovitz is stepping down from his role at Encounters after 26 years of service as co-founder, co-director, and board member. In 1999, Nodi Murphy and Steven Markovitz founded Encounters, which has since become the leading Creative Documentary Festival in South Africa and on the African continent. Initially, Encounters collaborated with Pro Helvetia on the first Encounters Swiss South African Documentary Film Festival and the Close Encounters Documentary Film Making Lab. The Festival is now well-known as the Encounters South African International Documentary Festival.

Encounters was established to fill a gap in the market during a time when documentary films were mainly seen as television content. Under the leadership of Steven and Nodi, the Festival successfully changed this perception. 

Steven stated, “We started the festival at a time when there was almost no support for documentaries, no community, and no documentaries in the cinemas. It felt important to start contributing to building this ecosystem, creating opportunities for both new and established filmmakers, and fostering robust debate around crucial issues in our young democracy. This feels as relevant today as it did in 1999.”

During his 26 years at the Festival, Steven’s contribution has been significant. He oversaw the production of over 40 films through the Close Encounters Documentary Lab and established partnerships with international organisations that have benefited local documentary filmmakers. Steven and Nodi also prioritised the appointment of Black staff in key positions in the organisation, providing mentorship and on-the-job training in the areas of curating, funding, and festival management. This support has now been passed on to a new generation of film festival professionals.

The current Encounters board consists of a diverse mix of talent and expertise in film. It is led by Chair Toni Monty, and directors Moroba Nkawe, Karen Meiring, Tiny Mungwe, and Mandisa Zitha.

Learn more and get involved with informative Industry Programmes

Cape Town

Encounters presents the Iliso Lethu African Documentary Symposium in partnership with University of Cape Town, the Centre for Film and Media Studies, University of the Western Cape, the Centre for Humanities Research, Al Jazeera Documentary, French Institute of South Africa and Climate Story Lab Southern Africa.

This inaugural event is the perfect opportunity to connect with others who share a passion for African documentaries and have a vision to help shape the future of documentary and network-building in Africa. Find the full programme here.

When: From Thursday, 20 June to Friday, 21 June, 10h00 – 16h00.
Where: Centre for Humanities Research, 66 Greatmore Street (entrance on Regent Street), Woodstock, Cape Town, South Africa

Tickets: R200 / 2-day pass


Encounters presents the Johannesburg Industry Programme in partnership with Rough Cut Lab Africa (RCLA) and Goethe-Institut of South Africa.

Embark on an exploration of Rough Cut Lab Africa’s essence, history, and future at RCLA’s NOMADIC HORIZONS event. Developed with SAGE and Encounters, this initiative embodies nomadic intentions, fostering African connections and conversations across the Global South. We invite you to delve into the transformative power of RCLA, from reshaping narratives to empowering filmmakers and editors, and forging cultural exchanges across continents.

Join insightful discussions, including CROSSING BOUNDARIES, CROSSING BORDERS, where industry experts dissect documentary editing, and a MASTERCLASS with acclaimed director Andreas Hartmann on “The Art of Evaporation: Capturing Invisible Stories”. Conclude the day at CUTTING EDGE CONNECTIONS, a networking event fostering genuine dialogue and connections. 

Don’t miss the VINYL MIXER, where beats and connections come together effortlessly, offering a chance to unwind, socialise, and create something extraordinary with DJs Khalid Shamis, Tymon Smith, and The Straitjacket Tailor. 

Find the full programme here.

When: Saturday, 29 June, 10h00 – 21h00.
Where: Goethe-Institut South Africa, 119 Jan Smuts Ave, Parkwood, Johannesburg, 2193

RSVP here.

Learn more and get involved with informative Industry Programmes

Environmental Focus at Encounters
This year, Encounters spotlights critical environmental issues with a selection of impactful films followed by insightful post-screening panels. Nick Chevallier’s Wild Coast Warriors highlights the community’s fight against Shell’s oil exploration to protect South Africa’s Wild Coast from ecological devastation. My Mercury by Joëlle Chesselet and Pippa Erlich captures the life of a dedicated conservationist safeguarding endangered bird colonies on Namibia’s remote Mercury Island. Hermien Roelvert-Van Gils’s Diary of an Elephant Orphan follows the touching journey of Khanyisa, an orphaned baby elephant, as she struggles for survival. Set between the COP26 and COP27 climate conferences, Jacqueline van Meygaarden, Anita Khanna & Rehad Desai’s Temperature Rising follows the lives of three climate activists as they tackle the climate crisis in Southern Africa, exposing the politics, barriers, and struggles activists face. These four feature documentary films and the accompanying post-screening discussions underscore the urgent need for environmental awareness and action, offering audiences a detailed and nuanced understanding of the ongoing battles to preserve our natural world.

Schedule and booking details here.

State of the Nation at Encounters
Encounters addresses the political and social landscape with a focus on the State of the Nation through compelling films and in further post-screening panels. Miki Redelinghuys and Pearlie Joubert’s Mother City explores the enduring inequalities of post-apartheid Cape Town, following the Reclaim the City movement as they fight for the rights of the working class in a city marked by stark racial and economic divides. London Recruits by Gordon Main offers a gripping narrative of young white activists recruited by the ANC in London during the late 60s and early 70s, blending dramatic reenactments with archival footage to reveal their covert operations in apartheid South Africa. These documentaries and discussions are crucial in understanding the ongoing battles for equality and justice, providing a platform for vital conversations about our shared history and current social dynamics.

Schedule and booking details here.

Palestine Focus at Encounters
Encounters presents very different documentaries by Palestinians that are deeply intertwined with themes of memory, archive, and belonging, offer a profound exploration of identity and historical consciousness. These films delve into the collective and personal memories of displacement, loss, and resilience, and longing serving as both a documentation and a reclamation of memory. They illuminate the enduring quest for stability, resolution and belonging amidst the enduring struggles of the Palestinian people, presenting a heartfelt testament to their spirit and the continued struggles that still lie ahead. This year in partnership with Cinema Solidarity, Encounters presents their Palestine Focus. 

No Other Land by filmmakers Basel Adra and Yuval Abraham documents Adra’’s powerful first-person account of living in the Palestinian village of Masafer Yatta, located in an area of the West Bank occupied by the Israeli army, who have declared it a training ground and are intent on removing the local population and their homes, even though they have been living there since the 19th century. Bye Bye Tiberias directed by Lina Soualem is an intimately made film that chronicles the life and family history of the great Palestinian actress Hiam Abbas, most familiar to mainstream Western audiences for her role as Marcia Roy in the TV series Succession. Kamal Aljafari’s, A Fidai Film, is fundamentally a political act that transcends the usual parameters of cinema, even as a deep love for the form informs it. By re-appropriating the archive – so filled with life, memories, and otherwise invisible histories – it counters the ongoing attempt to erase the visual and institutional memory of the region, and shows how the plundering of memory is central to the broader violence of imperialism. 

Schedule and booking details here.

Embrace Community: Experience Free Outreach Screenings Across South Africa!

Bertha Movie House, Cape Town

Where: Bertha Movie House, 8 Mzala Street, Ekuphumleni, 7784, Cape Town

RSVP here.

Sunshine Cinema, various venues around South Africa 

  • Eastern Cape
  • What: Wild Coast Warriors
  • Where & When: Friday 21 June | 2pm | Mdantsane Art Centre Mdantsane Unit 2, Mdantsane, 5219, East London
  • Eastern Cape
  • What: Wild Coast Warriors 
  • Where & When: Saturday 22 June | 10am | Masifunde Changemaker Academy, 23 Witbooi St, Schoenmakerskop, Gqeberha, 6011
  • KwaZulu-Natal
  • What: London Recruits
  • Where & When: Saturday 22 June | 12pm | Emaphethelweni Conference Centre, 5 Leinster Street, Scottsville, Pietermaritzburg
  • Gauteng
  • What: London Recruits
  • Where & When: Friday 28 June | 10am | Mamalodi East, Thandanani Drop-inn Centre Mamelodi, Pretoria, 0122
  • Gauteng
  • What: Mother City
  • Where & When: Friday 28 June | 2pm | Orange Farm, Afrika Tikkun Arekopaneng Community Centre, Ext 8B, 14356 Main Road, Orange Farm, 1841


When: Sunday 23 June | 8pm – Midnight (Doors open at 7pm)
Where: One Park, 1 Park Road Gardens Cape Town

Lineup: Rare Software, Mxshi Mo (6SENSE film protagonist), Aryu Jassika
Tickets:  No RSVP necessary. It’s R50 at the door and if you have an Encounters ticket from any day of the festival then you get in for free!