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Encounters festival to screen year’s hottest documentaries

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This year, Encounters will co-present several South African and international documentaries in association with DIFF. The partnership has enabled filmmakers to premiere their films at both Festivals for the last 14 years.

For the ten days from 6 to 16 June, Cape Town and Johannesburg audiences will see this year’s top-rated documentaries, each breaking new ground in non-fiction filmmaking.

Among these is Ian Bonhote and Peter Ettedgui’s ravishing “McQueen”, a superbly crafted, emotionally wrenching and fully dimensional portrait of ill-fated British fashion designer Alexander McQueen. A working-class gay boy from a housing estate, his phenomenal storming of the walls of the ever-so trendy world of the demi-monde is fascinating in itself. And the film, like his designs, is scorchingly outspoken, troubling and tinged with tragedy. Nominated for a BAFTA for both best documentary and Outstanding British Film of the year, the film Won 2019’s LGBTQ documentary of the year from the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association.

“Cold Case Hammarskjöld” won Danish provocateur Mads Brügger Best World Documentary Director at February’s Sundance festival, and received the same honour from this year’s One World International Human Rights Documentary Festival. Brügger is infamous for his ironic and incisive trawling of the tainted and the corrupt. In 2011, his documentary The Ambassador was about the trading of diplomatic titles in Africa. Now he is back in Africa on the trail of the plotters and murderers of UN Secretary Dag Hammarskjöld in 1961. The dirt he uncovers should be creating a stench from London to South Africa via Belgium in what Variety’s Owen Glieberman described as, “a singular experience that counts as one of the most honestly disturbing and provocative nonfiction films in years.”

Another coup for this year’s Encounters is the screening of “Talking About Trees”, director Suhaib Gasmalbari’s elegant and bittersweet chronicle of the demise of Sudanese cinema and the group of retired directors hoping to revive their country’s love of film. The film won the Glasshutte Prize for Best Documentary and the Panorama Audience Award at this year’s Berlin International Film Festival before winning the Fipresci Prize and Jury Prize at the Istanbul International Film Festival in April this year.

Charming and sad in equal measure, this is a paean to the love of cinema as two of the one-time luminaries of Sudanese cinema – Ibrahim Shaddad, Suleiman Mohamed and their cineaste friends Suliman Enour and Eltayeb Mahdi – attempt to revive a cinema in a country where movies have been banned for years. A gorgeous experience for those who travel in the projector’s beam, and for those who prefer to watch movies in the comfort of their own streaming services, this eye-opening documentary may make them reconsider the value, both cultural and political, of being able to see something on the big screen.

Click here to read about more documentaries to be shown at the Encounter’s festival.

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