Full lineup revealed for Africa's top documentary festival

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Encounters South African International Documentary Festival has announced its full lineup, which includes some must-see late additions.

The Oscar and BAFTA nominated Virunga is an eco-thriller set in the DRC’s national park, a World Heritage Site that is home to the world’s last mountain gorillas. Only two days before the film’s premiere, park warden Emmanuel de Merode was gunned down after delivered damning evidence that Virunga is in grave danger. With the Congo’s fragile peace crumbling, the park and its gorillas are under threat not just from the rebel army but also from a corrupt mining company that has found oil there.

Winner of Best Documentary at Tribeca, Democrats follows Paul Mangwana of Zanu-PF and Douglas Mwonzora of opposition MDC-T, as they consult Zimbabweans across the country as part of leading the process of drafting a new constitution. With tension crackling between Mangwana’s joker and Mwonzora’s straight guy, these two unlikeliest of collaborators must cling together if they’re to weather what is about to be a massive political storm.

That Sugar Film is a funny and frightening look at what protagonist Damon Gameau believes is the greatest danger to his young family’s healthy future: sugar. Swearing to a two-month diet of only hidden sugars – those secreted in supposedly ‘healthy’ foods – Gameau assembles a crack team to monitor the effect on his body and mind. With cameos from Stephen Fry and Hugh Jackman, this entertaining film is sure to spark the most dietary debates since Tim Noakes first used the term ‘banting.’

Encounters will also host the world premiere of Jazz Heart, festival favorite Steve Kwena Mokwena’s moving documentary about reconnecting with his father, jazz musician Andrew ‘Bra Pat’ Mokwena.

Three biopics on remarkable Africans have also been added to the lineup.

Adriaan De La Rey and J.P. Kotzé’s In Search Of Our Own: The Forgotten Legacy of Norman Eaton remembers the pioneering South African architect who designed houses for the likes of Pierneef and Alexis Preller.

Lebogang Rasethaba’s Prisoner 467/64: The Untold Legacy of Andrew Mlangeni profiles one of South Africa’s unsung heroes, the 11th accused in the Rivonia trial.

Asni: Courage, Passion and Glamour in Ethiopia celebrates jazz diva Asnaketch Worku, Ethiopia’s Edith Piaf of the 50s and 60s, a time when men were still playing female roles in theatre productions there. She was famed for her trailing dresses and swaying hips, notorious for her many lovers, and infamous for daring to sing the lyrics, “Why should I have my own husband, when I can share yours?”

African additions
New additions from across the continent include:
• A Goat For a Vote, a charming, revealing Al Jazeera documentary about three Kenyan students competing to be school president
• My Death doesn’t belong to Me, about a comedian-turned-filmmaker planning his own funeral in Burkina Faso
• Ndi Vumeni: Faniswa, Nomakhomazi Dyosopu’s topical look at public art in Cape Town through the eyes of performing artist Faniswa Yisa and Khayelitsha dance group Moving Stories
• Out on the Street, about a working-class theatre group in Cairo staging confrontations from every day life.

International additions
Late international additions include:
• On the Bride’s Side, about a group of young Italians who concoct the perfect plan to smuggle in refugees from the Middle East: they stage a wedding party
• Cover Story, an Al Jazeera documentary that goes behind-the-scenes at Ala, a glossy women’s monthly magazine  in Turkey aimed at Muslim women who think that fashion and Islam are compatible
• Iranian, about an atheist Iranian who convinces four Muslim clerics to spend a weekend living under one roof brainstorming how all Iranians can co-exist, regardless of belief
• The multi-award-winning Toto and His Sisters, about three children fending for themselves in Bucharest while their mother’s in prison for drug trafficking
• The Iron Ministry, a cinema verite journey across China along what is becoming the world’s largest railway network
• Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait, assembled from ‘1001’ phone videos captured by Syrian civilians in the midst of their unimaginable nightmare.

These films complete an impressive lineup that already included 2015 Oscar-winner CitizenFour; some of the most talked about international documentaries, like Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, Salt of the Earth and The Look of Silence; award-winners from across Africa, including Beats of the Antonov, The Dream of Shahrazad, and The Shore Break; and the world premiere of Wild Dog and Mrs Heart, a tender observational documentary about two inspectors from Animal Welfare Helderberg, who dare to care despite having to euthanize healthy dogs and cats every day, from festival favorite Riaan Hendricks (The Devil’s Lair).

Africa’s leading documentary festival runs from 4-14 June 2015 at Ster-Kinekor Cinema Nouveau at the V&A Waterfront and The Labia in Cape Town, and at Ster-Kinekor Cinema Nouveau at Rosebank and at The Bioscope in Johannesburg.

Encounters is made possible through the support of the National Film and Video Foundation South Africa, Al Jazeera, Bertha Foundation, WESGRO and HCI Foundation.

Watch and embed the trailers for the late additions:
Virunga
That Sugar Film
On The Bride’s Side
Prisoner 467/64: The Untold Legacy of Andrew Mlangeni
Asni: Courage, Passion and Glamour in Ethiopia
Cover Story
Vote for a Goat
Toto and His Sisters
Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait
Ndi Vumeni: Faniswa

Playlist of all trailers

Visit www.encounters.co.za to browse the full programme.