The Must-see Local and African Films at Encounters Documentary Festival

Image credit: ©Jabu Nadia Newman from the documentary "Inside Out"

Encounters South African International Documentary Festival is currently running until the 20th of June and we've had the pleasure of seeing several films. With a variety of internationally and African produced films, our focus was primarily on stories by female directors (but not limited to) and narratives focused on the African continent.

Shot mostly in German "King Bansah and his Daughter" by Agnes Lisa Wegner follows the life of Chief Céphas Bansah of Hohoe (capital of Ghana’s Gbi Traditional) which consists of roughly 200 000 Ewe people. Bansah works as a full-time mechanic in his shop in Ludwigshafen Germany and is the King of Hohoe, part-time and mostly virtually.

Touching slightly on the daily experiences of Bansah and his wife Gabriele in Ludwigshafen as well as their children, in these moments the film addresses bi-racial identity, racism and nationalism. Bansah and his wife travel to Ghana with their daughter Katharina as the possibility of her becoming queen is a thread throughout the film. The most earnest part about the film is Bansah's commitment to uplifting and helping the Ewe community which he serves, his contributions carry the community forward and his sheer dedication to them is inspiring.

Some Pride Month selections are "I am Samuel" and "There's Power in the Collar". Although both powerful in their unique ways both come with trigger warnings for homophobic violence.

First set in the countryside in Kenya, "I am Samuel" directed by Peter Murimi is at times tenderly sweet, emotional and yet powerful. It follows the journey of Samuel a Kenyan gay man in his quest for unfiltered self-expression, it follows the love story of Samuel and Alex, a gay love story in a country where their love is criminalised. Samuel confronts the reality of being open to his father, a preacher at the local church. The film touches on love in its myriad forms, romantic love, family, friendship and community.

"There's Power in The Collar" by Lodi Matsetela and Vincent Moloi looks at the political side of LGBTQ+ rights and was created during the court case of decriminalization of homosexuality in Botswana.

Quite uncomfortable at times as it addresses very tough subjects such as Christianity juxtaposed with patriarchy, colonization and homophobia. Yet at the same emphasizes the value and power of faith. It follows Chantel, a 27-year-old lesbian who's both a theologian and a queer rights activist, as she attempts to start her journey to get ordained as a reverend in Botswana's religiously conservative and homophobic society. And it also follows a variety of queer stories alongside the political fight for the human right of authentic self-expression.

In contrast, Faya Dayi is an American-Ethiopian documentary by Jessica Beshir which explores the rituals of khat, Ethiopia's most lucrative crop, a leaf chewed for centuries for religious meditations.

Moody, dark, filmed in black and white, the film shows a city caught in a khat haze deconstructing a loose intergenerational narrative wherein for the elder harvesters, khat is both their daily bread and daily escape, and the youngsters are keen to escape its enveloping, addictive aura.

With a wide variety of short films to choose from, one that stood out was "Inside Out" by Jabu Nadia Newman a film which she said was created initially to try and raise money for the Indoni Dance, Arts and Leadership Academy to carry on the important work they were doing. The film features the dancers from the Western Cape Dance Academy who poetically and masterfully display their passion, love and enthusiasm for dance.

We are also looking forward to the Nthato Mokgata and Lebogang Rasethaba Directed film "MUTANT", a portrait of one of South Africa's most outspoken and controversial voices Isaac Mutant addressing political issues releasing on 18th June.

Check out the documentaries at Encounters, in their wide selection of local and international productions and various panel discussions and talks delving deeper into the subjects until 20 June.