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Welcome to the 23rd Encounters South African International Documentary Festival and our second online edition with the inclusion of a select few physical events!

The 2021 online festival edition ticket prices are

Single Feature Tickets – R60

Unlimited Festival Pass – R500

All Short Tickets – FREE

Bioscope JHB & Labia Only – R70

The Encounters Training and Development Institute is a not-for-profit section 21 organization. Become a DocLover or Corporate sponsor of Encounters to continue being a part of this cultural revolution. For more info on what we do, go to our “Support the Festival” Page.


Mandisa Zitha, Festival Director

It is with great pleasure I welcome you all to the 23rd edition of the Encounters South African International Documentary Festival.

We are experiencing a groundbreaking edition, with our second #VirtuallyEverywhere offering available online to everyone in South Africa, following on last year’s hugely successful virtual Festival.

I invite you to join us for 10 days of inspiring films, webinars, debates and Q&As, and meet directors locally and from around the globe. Through various online platforms, you will engage with our special guests; local and international guest filmmakers, producers, directors and their subjects, and panelists and moderators from around the world and the far-flung provinces.

We were excited to receive a significant number of independent projects from talented filmmakers and have been delighted by the quality of the films. Our programme of 71 titles, including shorts and features, with animations amongst them, will engender conversations around a variety of issues, events, people, art, and the craft of documentary filmmaking. Our programme is diverse, inclusive and composed of a wide spectrum of professionals.

Our focus is to try and select films that inform, educate and entertain. Encounters is proud to screen no fewer than 32 South African films and 8 World Premières.

A notable amount of our films are directed by talented women and we are proud to showcase the works of emerging and established filmmakers through the shorts programme.

We have some amazing films from all corners of the continent, Niger, Ethiopia, Kenya, DRC; and SADC countries; Botswana, Mozambique, Eswatini.

The Opening Night film, President, directed by Camilla Nielsson, is an award-winning, gut-punching docu-thriller that follows the 2018 Zimbabwean elections.

Congratulations to the talented filmmakers whose films we are presenting this year!

Film Partnerships

Encounters is delighted to announce another year of the Swiss Focus, in association with Swiss Films and the Embassy of Switzerland in South Africa, that will offer four wonderful productions, and include a Masterclass with Thomas Imbach, the director of Nemesis. Other films in the lineup include Sapelo, directed by Nick Brandestini, Burning Memories, directed by Alice Schmid and Watch Over Me, directed by Farid Pacha.

The partnership with DOK.fest Munich this year presents The Case You, directed by Alison Kuhn.  Look out for conversations with all the directors around these films online, live or pre-recorded.

Encounters at the Bioscope

The Goethe-Institut is supporting Encounters at the Bioscope in Joburg for in-person cinema screenings with limited capacity. This will be accompanied by Q&As, and the schedule is on the website.

Encounters Talks

This year’s Industry Programme continues vital conversations about the future of the documentary industry and Africa’s place in it. Diving more in-depth, events featuring discussions of politics, gender and distribution look at specific intersections and challenges in the world of documentary filmmaking. Ranging from issues of creative and economic collaboration, to sustaining and supporting emerging filmmakers from the region, to curating and representing African stories, this year’s Festival explores the craft, industry and audience of cinema on the continent.

The programmes are a collaboration with many partners, from industry organisations such as The Documentary Filmmakers Association, to Foreign Agencies, such as IFAS – The French Institut of South Africa, to regional partners such as Documentary Africa.

Rough Cut Lab

The 3rd SAGE/ENCOUNTERS Rough Cut LAB 2021, supported by the National Film and Video Foundation of South Africa, is already underway with 7 teams from South Africa and other African countries. The projects will benefit from expert consultancy by world class editors.

Outreach and Youth Programmes

We have partnered with Vuma Pop-up Cinema to provide small capacity screenings to young people in Nyanga, Gugulethu, Khayelitsha, Athlone and Kwalanga Township. We continue to work with our satellite venues, Tshisimani Centre for Activist Education in Mowbray and Isivivana Centre in Khayelitsha.

I wish to thank all our funders and partners without whom we would not be able to host this annual event, in particular our principal funder The National Film and Video Foundation of South Africa and The City of Cape Town, for their continued support.

I wish to thank the Encounters Board, who provide support throughout the year.

Thank you to the amazing Team that puts this Festival together: Sharon, Tarha, Barend, Carol, Taryn, Lizanne, Joy, Freddy, Sean, Sara, Sade, Ashleigh, Cry and Darrel, as well as our wonderful PESP Interns: Refiloe, Zainab, Lukhanyiso, Keitumetse, Hannah and Taahir.

Let us meet each other again online.

Mandisa Zitha
Festival Director

BBC creates an alliance of prestigious film festivals to co-curate the line-up of LongShots, its non-fiction film festival

After the success of its first edition, BBC Reel’s online film festival LongShots returns this summer with a new format and attitude. The BBC has created an unprecedented alliance of 13 prestigious film festivals from around the globe to showcase the most exciting current works in non-fiction that embody this year’s motto Age of Bloom.

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“It was an exceedingly difficult decision to select the winners for the Programmer’s Choice Awards. This year we were spoiled for choice with a wide range of excellent films that creatively stretched the documentary form to bring us fresh perspectives on important issues.”  says Mandisa Zitha, Festival Director.

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