Monday, July 24, 2006

Call for Entries: The Southern African Documentary Co-production Forum (DCF)

Sithengi has - at last - announced its Documentary co-prodiction forum for this year.

"Matching Projects and Broadcasters"

The DCF contributes directly to increased opportunities and improvement in documentary filmmaking in Southern Africa.

Submission Deadline: 17 September 2006, 5pm
(No extensions will be granted)

The criteria for entry into the 2006 DCF are:

At least 20% of your proposed budget has to be secured and/or
A broadcaster must be attached


Download and complete the application form. This form must be signed and faxed to the Projects Co-ordinator at fax: 021 430 8186
Email the following to
1 page synopsis (no longer than 1 page)
3 page treatment (no longer than 3 pages)
1-page budget top sheet
Any letters of intent/commitment from financiers, distributors, broadcasters etc...
1/2-page biography of the producer and 1/2 page biography of the director.
(Total number of pages of application to be emailed: 6 (excluding letters of intent/commitment and the application form)
The lengths of the above application material must be strictly adhered to. Any incomplete applications or application material that is longer than required will be disqualified and no correspondence will be entered into.

In Brief

17 September: Final Deadline for ALL submissions from SA and Africa

16 - 18 November: Sithengi Film & TV Market

For further information contact:
The Projects Officer
Tel: 27 21 430 8160
Fax: 27 21 430 8186

A Lion's Trail

Lion to roar at the Emmies
A Lion's Trail, an hour-long documentary film directed by Francois Verster and produced by Francois Verster, Mark Kaplan and Dan Jawitz, has been nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Cultural & Artistic Programming by the US National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
The film, which has won various festival awards around the world and has been broadcast in seventeen countries, tells the story of how Solomon Linda, a Zulu isicathamiya musician wrote Africa’s most famous song, “Mbube”, how this became the inspiration for the multi-million dollar pop classic “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”, and how Linda died with hardly any benefits from the success of the song. It follows the efforts of journalist Rian Malan, folk singer Pete Seeger and others in trying to redress the wrongs of the past. Traveling into the musical worlds of South Africa, England and the US, A LION’S TRAIL celebrates the song’s timeless power while revealing injustices within the international recording industry.

Said Lois Vossen, series producer at ITVS Independent Lens, which broadcast the film in the US and put it forward for nomination, “I am extremely pleased and proud that A LION'S TRAIL has been nominated for an Emmy Award… This is a great honor, of course, and one [the filmmakers] fully deserve.” The winners of the awards will be announced on Monday, September 25 at a black tie awards ceremony in New York City, and the director and producers have been invited to attend the event.

Director Francois Verster said, “This is great news, and comes on the heels of much happy news over the past year in terms of money going back to Linda’s family!”

The film – together with efforts by Rian Malan, US parties and local lawyers - was partly instrumental in persuading local and international rights holders on the song (including The Richmond Organisation, rights holders on “Wimoweh”) to cede future income on the song to the Ntsele (Linda) family. Last year, after a campaign by local copyright lawyers, a settlement was reached whereby Disney paid out a large amount to the Ntsele family in Johannesburg for income from the song through THE LION KING.

A LION’S TRAIL has won various festival awards around the world (including Best Documentary at the Portobello Film Festival, Best Documentary at the 2003 Stone Awards and the Silver Dhow at the Zanzibar Film Festival), and has been broadcast in over fifteen countries. It was produced by Undercurrent Film and Television, Rapid Blue and Ice Media, and was funded by SABC3, the National Film and Video Foundation, the BBC, SBS, RTBF and the IDC. It is being distributed by First Hand Films in Zurich (


Monday, July 17, 2006

Encounters promisses to be best yet

According to Matthew Krouse from the Mail and Guardian this years Encounters documentary festival promises to be the best yet.

Bang bang goes gung ho
The Encounters documentary film festival highlights the responsibility of filmmakers in troubled times, writes Matthew Krouse

The raw material of the documentary filmmaker is misery. The fallout of war, the false hopes of the poor, the battle for survival of almost lost animal species, the territorial skirmishes of underprivileged youth, the painful dissolution of the traditional family and more.

Crafting this misery into entertainment is the documentary filmmakers’ lot. They take us with them on journeys fraught with doubt as, frame for frame, we witness the construction of the work. Even if you don’t appreciate their political views, you’ve got to love them for the commitment to their craft.

Having sat through all eight Encounters documentary film festivals, albeit in my lounge on preview tapes, I am convinced that of all the festivals we’re privileged to have, this is The One. In short, the programme tells us that this year there are 56 titles, including a record number of 20 local works.

In the early days of South African television, the nation’s understanding of the documentary form was based largely on the Thames Television series The World at War. Week upon week (26 in all) we sat glued to the box as cadavers piled up in faraway Europe. Mum knitted and dad puffed on his pipe sternly as Lord Lawrence Olivier’s exquisite narration droned on.

The world’s most acclaimed documentary, it seemed, had been made by God himself.

Today the divine presence is very much out the picture and the handmade aspect of the documentary is in. There is scarcely a work on the festival that isn’t narrated in first person by the director. Stock in trade is the cellphone. There are hours of conversations in moving cars with evasive, guilty parties adamant that they are not to be filmed. Nick Broomfield is the master of the genre -- “his idiosyncratic style of filmmaking has been called not so much fly on the wall as fly in the soup”.

When Broomfield arrives as a festival guest, perhaps someone will ask him what it is about the simpletons of the far right that keep him coming back for more. Broomfield’s recent work, His Big White Self, is a follow-up to his earlier look at Eugene Terreblanche in The Leader, His Driver and the Driver’s Wife.

Watching His Big White Self, locals will experience a sort of sick nostalgia for the chubby, red necks poking out of self-important safari suits. But Broomfield is a master of redemption, and he befriends the most unlikely of characters. This “apparently bumbling and chaotic Englishman who disarms his subjects”, as he’s referred to, finds worthy qualities in all his adversaries.

For a more in depth review of His Big White Self read this one on the Kwailwai* sister site Mhambi.

Read the whole Mail and Guardian article here.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Twelve Disciples of Nelson Mandela: A Son's Tribute to Unsung Heroes

The New York-born filmmaker Thomas Allen Harris first set eyes on the central South African city Bloemfontein in 2000 at the funeral of his stepfather, a long-exiled veteran of the struggle against apartheid. The two men had not been especially close. But when mourners warmly embraced Harris as the son and spiritual heir of Benjamin Pule Leinaeng, known as Lee, Harris began re- examining their connection as well as the many meanings of exile.

His new film, "Twelve Disciples of Nelson Mandela: A Son's Tribute to Unsung Heroes," is the result of his look at that connection and the life of Leinaeng and 11 comrades who left South Africa in 1960 after the banning of the African National Congress and spent the next three decades agitating from abroad for an end to white minority rule.

"The film really saved my life," said Harris, who wrote, produced and directed "Disciples." He used actors from Bloemfontein, who improvised their lines on the basis of a script outline that relied on Leinaeng's archives and interviews with seven surviving "disciples." (Three have since died.)

"All of my work is about identity," said Harris, an African-American who is gay and dislikes giving his age. "This film works on many levels: the meaning of diaspora, the reconciliation between me and Lee, the reconciliation between people and their country."

"Disciples," which had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival last year, was nominated for a 2006 Independent Spirit Award. The 73-minute film was also named best documentary at the Pan-African Film Festival in Los Angeles this year.

Mingling documentary and re-enactment, "Disciples" tells both the story of the 12 young men who had met in high school in Bloemfontein, joined an ANC youth cell and then dispersed to points all over the world, and the story of Harris; his mother, Rudean Leinaeng; and his younger brother, Lyle Ashton.

This family of black intellectuals in the Bronx was enamored of the pan-African movement and lived in Tanzania for a while, but in the film Harris also recalls being both wary of and enchanted by Leinaeng, an exotic foreigner who slaughtered sheep in the family's backyard.

Leinaeng, a journalist, married Harris's divorced mother, a chemistry professor, in 1976.

"At the funeral it was like looking in the mirror, and everything shattered," Harris said in an interview. "I realized I had followed Lee: I had become a political journalist, I had become a filmmaker, I have a revolutionary attitude toward my work."

Early in "Disciples" is a grainy scene of a 1999 Father's Day celebration at the family's home. It was the last time Harris saw Leinaeng, who died the next year at 63. Harris says in his narration for the film, "He had raised me since I was 9 years old, but I had never called him Father."

Harris is perhaps best known for the award-winning 2001 documentary "I Minha Cara/That's My Face," which, along with "Disciples" and "Vintage: Families of Value" (1995), forms a trilogy about his family and identity, whether sexual, racial or national. After graduating from Harvard in 1984 with a biology degree, Harris turned to film as a way to express himself.

The title of his latest film is derived from his boyhood imaginings of his stepfather's life. "I used to look at the photographs of them, and there were 12 of them," Harris recalled. "I came from a religious background - AME - and I thought they must be the 12 disciples of Nelson Mandela." (He was referring to the African Methodist Episcopal church.)

Although their names are largely lost to history, the "disciples" were among the foot soldiers of the African National Congress in exile, igniting sanctions and boycotts against South Africa. The film documents not just how the men worked to dismantle apartheid but also the loneliness of exile and, for those who came to the United States, the shock of the U.S. brand of racism.

"Thirty years is a hell of a time, it's a hell of a time," Leinaeng says near the end of "Disciples."

While in exile, Leinaeng earned a journalism degree from Temple University in Philadelphia, set up an ANC office in New York City in 1972, became a staff member at the United Nations' anti-apartheid unit and in the late 1980s served as acting chairman of the ANC regional political committee. He also produced an anti-apartheid radio program that was broadcast in South Africa. He returned to his homeland in 1995, after the end of apartheid.

Beyond Harris's personal motives in turning his camera on his family's role in a worldwide struggle, "Disciples" fleshes out a story that, like the U.S. civil rights movement, is often dominated by outsize leaders. While Mandela is well known, Harris said he had to start cobbling together the Bloemfontein story without benefit of books, articles or films.

His efforts have made him a hero to some in Bloemfontein. "There has never been a film tracing the people who left South Africa," Bethuel Setai, a 67- year-old "disciple" who is a former director general of the Free State Province, said in an interview from Bloemfontein. "So many people believe the struggle began in 1976 with Soweto. This shows this whole struggle has been a relay race."

Mochubela Seekoe, a 67-year-old "disciple" who became South Africa's ambassador to Russia, was, like Setai, delighted by the film.

"Our children will know what happened and who these people are," he said in a telephone interview from Bloemfontein. "I was touched and I was happy."

Isabella Winkie Direko, 76, who had been the disciples' teacher and later became premier of the Free State Province, which includes Bloemfontein, said the film had already had "a terrific impact on the city.

"The younger ones are impressed by the amount of work they did as exiles," she said. "The older people have gone down memory lane about what they endured."

As for Harris, the film project made him more aware of the history in his midst.

"I tell young people, 'Turn off the TV and interview the oldest person in your family,'" he said. "We have all the stories we need."

NY Times

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Bridget Jones Phenomenon

The Bridget Jones Phenomenon
in South Africa
South Africa 2006 48min
Dir: Wendy Hardie

In this dynamic, pertinent and fun investigation, four talented, beautiful, independent and unmarried thirty-something women embark on a quest to see if they are the only women in Cape Town, or indeed the world, who are still single. And if so, why? Growing up on a rich diet of romantic fairytales, the four sassy, successful singletons sip cosmopolitans and wonder just what is keeping their knight in shining armour. Has woman’s lib literally given him the willies? Have men been left behind in the changing times? Is compromise as dirty a word as commitment? Would he rather sit in a Jacuzzi surrounded by buxom twenty-somethings? Despite an irreverent approach Hardie asks some hard-hitting, insightful questions, and not just, where have all the good men gone?


Bushman’s Secrets

Bushman’s Secrets
South Africa 2006 64min Subtitles
Dir: Rehad Desai

Deep within the Kalahari live the original custodians of Africa. In this hostile environment, the San’s ancient knowledge ensures a symbiotic relationship with the harsh climate, plants and animals. But for centuries, the San were judged as inferior and their land exploited. Today they are still marginalised and, unable to hunt and gather, continue to live in poverty. Then one of their medicine plants, hoodia, is discovered as a miracle diet drug and has been patented by a giant pharmaceutical company. Just what does this now mean for the Khomani San – unknown riches or the plant vanishing from the landscape? The filmmaker walks through the Kalahari with a traditional healer, Jan van der Westhuizen, to explore the collision of corporate might and ancient ways.
Uhuru Productions

From Nkoko...with Love

From Nkoko...with Love
South Africa 2006 48min Subtitles
Dir: Karin Slater

“What am I going to leave my grandchildren? How am I going to show them how I grew up?” asks the spry seventy-four year old Grace Masuku. As tribal matriarch of the Bakgatla ba Kgafela tribe and a retired headmistress, she answers her own question by instructing her six year old grandchild and travelling the region, sharing her conviction in the power of indigenous knowledge and the value of natural resources with the youth. As Masuku missions around her province, her diverse teachings range from Tswana ancestors, sex education, and healing plants that, among other things, delay puberty and prevent menopause. The compelling joy of this film is not just Masuku’s personality and knowledge, but her forthright ability to embarrass teenagers make them listen.


South Africa 2006 72min Subtitles
Dir: Asivhanzhi Mathaba

Cruising the nightclubs of a psychedelic Hong Kong is a young, vibrant and forthright South African singer called Precious Unathi Motsweni. Precious considers her current career path a stepping-stone to international recognition. That has already involved cosmetic surgery and a trip to Dubai. But the resolute pursuit of stardom continues and so we chase her from her agent’s office in Johannesburg to a studio in Hong Kong to another back in Johannesburg. But while Precious’ determined ambition is remarkable, her sensitive and giving nature emerges when she returns to her rural home. There we see Precious tackle her unresolved and painful history that includes a broken home, an indifferent father, a now sober grandmother, and a not so sober mother.

Johnny Appels – the Last Strandloper

Johnny Appels – the Last Strandloper
South Africa 2006 24min Subtitled
Dir: Michael Raimondo

as the Atlantic breeze, this light and charming film sees Johnny Appels, and his merry band of hounds, daily teeter across the ancient slippery rock walls of Arniston’s fish traps, catching the fish and octopus left behind by the tide. Living according to the rhythm of the ocean, Appels loves his life, making his living from nature’s bounty using an age-old method handed down from the original inhabitants, the Khoisan. But Appel’s life has not always been so fulfilling. His stint in Victor Verster Prison for stabbing and assault left a tattooed body with eyes in the back of his legs and a determination to return to the sea. When he received amnesty, he headed back to the shore and began the process of repairing himself and the traps.

Mixed Blessings

Mixed Blessings
South Africa 2006 48min
Dir: Gillian Schutte & Fumane Diseko

Although striving for raceless society, the reality of living in South Africa is very different. In this sincere documentary, two sets of interracial parents look at how their children view the issue of race. Although neither Fumane nor Gillian wish their children to be viewed as ‘coloured’, what will they ultimately think of themselves? And how will their own political, cultural and intellectual upbringing and sensitivities contribute to their children’s idea of self and interaction with the world. Ultimately the children must decide for themselves. But for now, Kai, son of Gillian and Sipho, is a happy, self-possessed little boy who thinks of himself as golden. And Rehumile, the eldest of Fumane and Francisco’s three children, applies a liberating attitude – she is Worldian, a person of the world.

Courtesy of the SABC and the Director

The Mothers’ House

The Mothers’ House
South Africa 2005 76min Subtitles
Dir: Francois Verster

Charming and precocious, Miche Moses is a normal, conflicted teenager, but she lives in Bonteheuwel, on the Cape Flats where opportunity is frustrated by poverty, joy by anger, and love by violence. Miche’s mother, ex-Struggle activist Valencia, is proud and beautiful but unemployed, single and expecting her third child. Valencia’s mother, Amy, is a powerful, dominant matriarch who is the sole provider. As the birth of Miche’s sibling approaches, Valencia’s hormones rage out of control and so does her fiery temper and violent impatience. Navigating the tension that bounces off her at home, whilst doing her chores and schoolwork, Miche is pulled between her love for both her mother and her grandmother. At the same time, she must make her sense of the confusing and often violent world around her.

Best Documentary.
Cape Town International Film Festival 2005,
Premio Diocesi di Milano. Milan African, Asian and South American Film Festival 2005
Courtesy of the SABC and the Director

Mr. Devious: My Life

Mr. Devious: My Life
South Africa 2005 48min Subtitles
Dir: John W. Fredericks

From the seemingly endless gang violence of Beacon Valley, Mitchell’s Plain, emerges a young vibrant charismatic talent in the form of Mario “Mr. Devious” van Rooy. Shunning the cyclical debt of fame offered in Johannesburg, Devious returns to the Cape Flats determined to use his brand of hip hop activism to inspire the youth at risk and offer a creative alternative to juvenile offenders in prisons across the Cape. But, just as his message of non-violence is starting to get through, he is killed when rescuing his father from teenage muggers. Devastated by the loss of a close friend, the filmmaker explores Devious’ life, and the future of his legacy that now lies with his young widow and mother of his three children, Natalie.
Courtesy of the SABC and the Director

Rape for who I am

Rape for who I am

South Africa 2006 26min
Dir: Lovinsa Kavuma

South Africa is infamous for its rape statistics where a woman is raped every 29 seconds. But this insightful and revelatory film takes you into the marginalised society of black lesbians, and a worrying trend that seems to be on the increase. Bathini, Keva and Mary have been raped by men they knew – men who wanted to teach them how to be ‘real women’. The surprising thing is that these were not just homophobic men either, one rapist was gay. And others in the group talk of regularly being beaten by their partners. These women boldly tell their story and refuse to become victims of their sexuality. Our Constitution enshrines their right to equality, but society seems to be taking a while to catch up.
Courtesy of the Director

Enraged by a Picture

Enraged by a Picture
South Africa 2004 15min
Dir: Zanele Muholi

A photographer, Muholi is celebrating her exhibition in Johannesburg. Effi ciently confrontational, the exhibition causes a stir and provokes an outcry on a subject that is particularly taboo: being black and, in this case, being lesbian. Forthright and beautifully shot, each monochrome photo captures the present reality of the photographer’s subjects – the daily discomfort, double lives, abuse and hatred. The photographs present a window into their world. This documentary explores that world’s reality.

Ndim Ndim

Ndim Ndim
It's me, It’s me
South Africa 2005 8min
Dir: Martha Qumba

This is a fascinating portrait of brave, quietly persistent Funeka Soldaat who is an out lesbian and anti-abuse activist. Living in the controlled homophobia of her Xhosa-dominated community in Khayelitsha, Funeka’s single-handed education of those around her progresses slowly but surely.

Possessed by Demons

Possessed by Demons
South Africa 2004 4min
Dir: Nokuthula Dhladhla

This is a personal account of a congregation’s medieval and masculine response to a lesbian in their midst. Their brutal quest to cast out her male demons hardens her resolve to live as God’s creation.

Senzeni Na

Senzeni Na
What have we done
South Africa 2006 58min Subtitles
Dir: Portia Rankoane

Tsietsi Mashinini, the leader of the Soweto student uprising, was the apartheid government’s most wanted man in 1976. Forced into exile, he died under mysterious circumstances in Guinea Conakry, never to harvest the fruits of freedom in his homeland.

By means of rare archive and interviews with his close friends, comrades and family, the film goes beyond Tsietsi’s myth to discover what really happened to him in exile in West Africa. It depicts in detail the prelude to the momentous events that led up to June 16th 1976, and the unraveling of his political and social life after his marriage to beauty queen, Welma Campbell. It is both a celebration of, and a tribute to, a great revolutionary whose actions and those of his comrades, changed the course of history forever.
Courtesy of the SABC and the Director

Soweto Blues

Soweto Blues
South Africa 2006 90min
Dir: Faith Isiakpere

On the 16th June 1976, thousands of children took to the streets of Soweto in a peaceful protest. The apartheid government’s violent reaction created chaos and carnage and irrevocably changed the political landscape in South Africa. Due to heavy press censorship at the time messages of liberation and resistance that erupted after this day filtered out through music, to be heard around the world. Hugh Masekela immortalised the events in his lament Extensive interviews conducted with members from South Africa’s golden hall of musical fame – including Masekela, Hotstix Mabuse, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Jennifer Ferguson, and also Sono Okosun, Lance Gewer, and Duma Nhlovu – explore very personal perceptions of what the uprising meant and how it altered the conscious of politics and society in South Africa.
Courtesy of the SABC and the Director.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Gavin Hood on directing Tsotsi

In this video titled Gavin Hood on Tsotsi, Tsotsi director Gavin Hood explains his directing tecniques when working with actors.

He also discusses the visual style and the framing of shots in Tsotsi. His shots were very composed and stylized and he explains why he chose this over the hand held style of that other famous ghetto movie - City of Gods. Gavin reveals that besides being trained as an actor, he has an interest in stills photography.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Encounters features the work of Jean Rouch and Nick Broomfield

Two influential directors are receiving special attention at this years Encounters documentary film festival. In his lifetime, the great French auteur Jean Rouch created a formidable body of work, mostly in West Africa. The tiny selection Les Maitres Fous, Petit A' Petit, and Chronique D'Un Ete (Mad Masters, Little by Little and Chronicle of a Summer) at Encounters gives audiences a taste of his groundbreaking approach and innovative style that gave birth to Cinéma vérité. Encounters, assisted by the French Embassy, will host Bernard Sugurue, Claude Haffner and Sue Levine, colleagues of Rouch, who will provide an invaluable glimpse into Rouch's world.

Always managing to endearingly bumble himself into the most outlandish situations, Nick Broomfield is one of Britain's most respected documentary filmmakers. His lens has captured and investigated the personalities of many of the world's most infamous people, among them Aileen Wuornos, Heidi Fleiss and Margaret Thatcher. For this Encounters, Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love (Kurt & Courtney), Biggie Smalls and Tupac (Biggie & Tupac), and our very own Eugene Terreblanche (His Big White Self) come into not so flattering focus.

Polygamy, misinterpretation, religion, regal matriarchy and madness - these are the visions of other African cultures from across the continent. The five titles of the African Focus are Si-Guériki La Reine Mère, Le Malentendu Colonial, Cinq x Cinqi, Une Fenêtre Ouverte, and Mo and Me (Si-Guériki The Queen Mother, The Colonial Misunderstanding, Five x Five, A Window Opened).

Jean-Marie Teno, director of The Colonial Misunderstanding will be attending. As will Salim Amin for Mo and Me, a film of his father's life as a photojournalist in Africa. Others in the Journalists on the Edge theme are the Oscar® nominated The Death of Kevin Carter , a member of the South African Bang Bang Club, and The Black Road, an affecting portrait of Aceh's little known war.

The topic Food For Thought uncovers how clinical food production can be (Our Daily Bread), but occasionally isn't (The Real Dirt on Farmer John and Johny Apples - the last Strandlooper (a World Première)). It also shows the tenuous pact that exists between man and nature - and when man ventures into nature's domain, just what can happen (Conflict Tiger).

Films that bring joy to the world are the New York kids learning to dance in Mad Hot Ballroom and the Neapolitans' superstitious obsession with the Lotto in Dreaming by Numbers. Family perceptions and identities are re-analysed in 51 Birch St, 100% Human, My Grandmother's House, and local films Homesick and The Mothers' House. Music uplifts entire communities in Favela Rising, Mr Devious: My Life, Glastonbury and Dave Chappelle's Block Party.

Three titles from the Archives remind us of a history best never forgotten. These somewhat chilling retrospective views of the old South Africa sit in contrast to a record 21 vibrant, fascinating and insightful new South African films. These include the innovative Black on White series (The Heart of Whiteness, Inja Yomlungu, Men of Gold, Different Pigment). Encounters is also hosting a debate about Race and Identity in South African filmmaking. Be sure to catch the 24 local directors at the screenings of their films.

Political titles cover a gamut of issues. First are two views of the ongoing Palestine situation (Leila Khaled Hijacker (Leila Khaled will be a guest) and the poignant Another Road Home. The from America's politically-tied economy (Enron, the Smartest Guys in the Room and The American Ruling Class) to issues surrounding Iraq (Iraq in Fragments and Gitmo: The New Rules of War) that include the detention of prisoners, Saddam among them (Saddam Hussein, The Trial) and the use of private armies (Shadow Company). Other fascinating political films include Excellent Cadavers that chronicles the Mafia's murderous grip on Italy; Friends of Kim sheds an interesting new light on North Korea and sheds light for sympathetic Europeans. Our Brand is Crisis, shines the spotlight on morally-bankrupt electioneering processes driven by American 'image-consultants'.

Encounters is not just about the titles - though that is a major part of it. It is about developing new documentaries and taking a wealth of films to other areas. With this in mind, Encounters is hosting various Master Classes including one presented by Sky Sitney, Programme Director for Silverdocs. The SABC are hosting industry-specific workshops on Authorship & Ownership in African Storytelling and Your Business is Our Business! (How to get the best out of working with the SABC in the future).

The 8th edition of Encounters South African International Documentary Festival takes place in Johannesburg at Nu Metro Hyde Park from 14 July to 23 July 2006 and in Cape Town at Nu Metro V & A Waterfront from 21 July to 6 August 2006

Son of Man not in Zim

CONTROVERSIAL South African feature film, Son of Man, widely seen as echoing President Robert Mugabe's leadership and seemingly oppressive regime, is yet to see the light of day in Zimbabwe six months after its release.

The motion picture, which is a new interpretation of the Bible casting Jesus Christ as a revolutionary fighting oppression in contemporary Africa, premiered on January 22 at the Sundance film festival in Utah in the United States. According to the film's associate producer, Pauline Malefane who also plays Mary, Son of Man contains an echo of Mugabe's regime. In the movie Jesus is depicted as a political messiah who mobilises people to fight poverty and political oppression.

"He gathers people around him to fight against poverty and political oppression," Malefane recently told the South African press. "It feels a bit like apartheid, people living in fear that soldiers could come into the house at any time and kill children. But with the oppressor, a black government, there was an echo of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's regime."

The contentious film also challenges Hollywood depictions of a Western-looking messiah by replacing him with a "black Jesus", facing the Herculean task of emancipating a bewildered people from the jaws of a notorious and tyrannical rogue regime said to resemble Zimbabwe. Son of Man was directed by Mark Dornford-May and is a collaborative effort between Spier Films and Dimpho Di Kopane, a theatre and film ensemble. It was shot on location in South Africa's rural Eastern Cape and Khayelitsha.

Film experts argue that although the movie gives a fresh and innovative approach in depicting the birth and death of Christ in a politicised manner, it may prove contentious for switching the story from Roman-occupied first-century Palestine to a misruled 21st-century Africa.

Independent Xtra enquiries as to when the feature film is likely to show in Zimbabwe failed to yield any dividends as film and cinema organisations were evasive. However, given the stringent measures used by the Censorship Board in gate-keeping artistic products, the film might not show at public theatres due to its political connotations as was the case with American political thriller, The Interpreter which government last year dismissed as a CIA project to vilify Mugabe.

The Interpreter, which stars Oscar award-winner, Nicole Kidman, and Sean Penn showed for a week at public cinemas before being mysteriously pulled off the big screen. According to film website database, Son of Man gives an account about the life and death of Jesus Christ retelling it in a strong political and powerful drama from an African perspective.

"Mary (Pauline Malefane) is seeking shelter in a schoolhouse during a skirmish in the midst of a bloody civil war when she is visited by an angel of the Lord, who tells her that she will give birth to the son of God," reads the synopsis. "Mary raises Jesus (Andile Kosi) until he grows to adulthood; he then sets out on his own, preaching a new faith which embraces compassion and non-violence while rejecting the corruption and brutality of the current political leadership. Jesus' teachings attract a handful of disciples ranging in age, background, and gender, but as a military occupation force takes over the land, the actions of those who oppose their authority are monitored closely by the new government, and Jesus and his associates are no exception.

John Malkovich to lead in Disgrace

THE Australian film-making team of writer-producer Anna-Maria Monticelli and director Steve Jacobs, together with Emile Sherman, son of South African-born Australians Gene and Brian Sherman, has secured actor John Malkovich to play the lead in the movie Disgrace, an adaptation of the Booker Prize-winning novel by J. M. Coetzee that goes to the heart of ethical complexities in modern South Africa.

It was confirmed this week that John Malkovich will replace UK actor Ralph Fiennes as the novel’s central character, Porfessor David Lurie in the film version of JM Coetzee’s Disgrace. Malkovich, 52, has been nominated for two Oscars.

It's arguable that the complex Malcovich would make for a much better Professor Lurie than Fiennes, although it's a pity that they have not cast a South African actor for the role.

In 1999, Disgrace was awarded the prestigious Booker Prize and in 2003, Coetzee won the Nobel Prize for Literature. The SA-born author now lives in Australia where he is an honorary research fellow of the University of Adelaide’s English department..

Disgrace centres on a middle-aged romantic-poetry scholar, Profess David Lurie, whose world falls apart after his love affair with a student comes to light. He retreats to his daughter, Lucy’s Eastern Cape farm where he gets entangled in a disturbing web of post-apartheid politics.

Director Steve Jacobs and screenwriter Anna-Maria Monticelli plan to film Disgrace in South Africa later this year. The producers hope to cast a South African actress as Lucy and some of the country’s top actresses have auditioned for the role.

The executive producer of Disgrace is Daria Jovicic (Girl With a Pearl Earring).