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


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