Under African Skies will open the 14th Encounters South African International Documentary Festival, which runs from 7-24 June 2012 in Cape Town and Johannesburg.
Directed by Emmy and Peabody winner Joe Berlinger, the documentary tells the inside story of Paul Simon’s trip to South Africa to record Graceland and his return last year to celebrate its 25th anniversary. The bestselling, Grammy-winning album introduced South African music to the world and has been included in numerous Best Album of All Time lists by the likes of Rolling Stone and Time, but the trip was heavily criticized at the time, as it undermined the cultural embargo against Apartheid.
Under African Skies was a favourite at Sundance earlier this year, where The Hollywood Reporter called it “pure bliss.”
South Africa’s first Oscar winner, Jon Blair, is this year’s first confirmed guest. Encounters will host Africa’s first retrospective of Jon’s work, including his Oscar-winning Anne Frank Remembered; his Emmy-winning Dying To Tell a Story – Reporters at War; and Dancing with the Devil, which explores Rio de Janeiro’s drug wars through the eyes of a drug lord, a cop and an evangelical preacher. Jon will also host a master class alongside the festival.
“This year’s programme is one of the strongest yet,” says festival director Mandisa Zitha. “We’ve managed to secure some of the most talked-about documentaries from across the world over the last year.”
Another of Berlinger’s films, Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory, which he co-directed with Bruce Sinofsky, will also screen at Encounters. This is the conclusion to his gripping, three-part courtroomdrama about the West Memphis Three, who allegedly murdered three children in Arkansas, USA in 1993.
Purgatory was nominated for the Best Documentary Oscar in March, where it competed against another film in this year’sprogramme, Wim Wenders’ Pina, an exquisitely shot 3D tribute to German dancer and choreographer Pina Bausch.
Marley, the definitive biography of reggae icon Bob Marley, is another highlight ofthis year’s festival. Directed by Oscar-winner Kevin Macdonald (Touching the Void, Last King of Scotland), Marley has a 93% rating from critic aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes for the current theatrical release in America. As New York’s The Village Voice wrote, “Thoroughly researched and packed with phenomenal archive footage, it’s a rousing tribute to a mesmerizing performer that forgoes blind hero worship.”
The festival also boasts new films by some of South Africa’s top documentary filmmakers. Bryan Little, who won the Audience Award for Best South African Film for Fokofpolisiekar at Encounters in 2009, returns with the world premiere of his beat-battle chronicle The African Cypher. Clifford Bestall, who won the same award in 2010 for The 16th Man, is screening his Hillbrow-themed Between Heaven and Hell, while Dylan Valley, whose Afrikaaps was the runner up in 2010, is also back with Jumu’a: The Gathering.
“We have something for everyone,” says Mandisa, pointing to a bumper lineup of documentaries dealing with a wide range of topics, including the arts (Eames, The Great Contemporary Art Bubble), the environment (TheIsland President), food (A Matter of Taste), activism (Pink Ribbon Inc), recent South African history (A Common Purpose), reconciliation (One Day After Peace) and sex in Africa (The Sunny Side of Sex).
Africa’s most prestigious documentary festival runs from 7-24 June 2012 at Nu Metro V&A Waterfront and The Fugard Theatre in Cape Town and at Nu Metro Hyde Park and The Bioscope in Johannesburg.
The National Film and Video Foundation is the primary sponsor of Encounters, which is made possible by the further support of The Cape Film Commission, Goethe Institut, US Consulate General / AFS, The Times, HCI Foundation, Nu Metro, UCT and CTV.
For more information visit www.encounters.co.za.
Below are the trailers:
UNDER AFRICAN SKIES
PARADISE LOST: PURGATORY
ANNE FRANK REMEMBERED
DANCING WITH THE DEVIL
BETWEEN HEAVEN & HELL