nullThe Village Under The Forest won the Best South African Film Audience Award at Encounters South African International Documentary Festival, while Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present was voted Best International Film.

Incarcerated Knowledge (by Dylan Valley) and The White Picket Fence Project (by Tamarin Kaplan and Marla Altschuler’s) came second and third respectively in the vote for Best South African Film, while two Oscar nominees came second and third for Best International Film: Dror Moyeh’s The Gatekeepers and David France’s How To Survive A Plague.

The fascinating Village Under The Forest explores the hidden remains of the destroyed Palestinian village of Lubya, which lies under a purposefully cultivated forest plantation called South Africa Forest.

Directed by Emmy-winner Mark J Kaplan and written and narrated by scholar and author Heidi GrunebaumThe Village Under The Forest unfolds as a personal meditation from the Jewish Diaspora.

The controversy that has surrounded the film speaks to the power of documentaries,” says festival director Lesedi Oluko Moche. “The film’s two sold-out screenings at Encounters really got people talking. You’d expect a film like this from a Palestinian filmmaker, but it’s been made by two Jews, who bravely confront, interrogate and take responsibility for the actions of their forebears, something we haven’t seen in many films out of South Africa.

The Artist is Present follows Marina Abramovic as she prepares for a major retrospective of her work and the biggest exhibition of performance art in MoMA’s history.

Key to the exhibition is a live event that spanned seven hours every day for three months: the artist sitting still, looking into the eyes of hundreds of her audience, one at a time, and witnessed by hundreds of thousands of others, without a break for anything.

The Encounters Audience Award is just the latest prize for this moving film, which also won the Panorama Audience Award at Berlin,” says Lesedi. “People were regularly in tears at the sold-out screenings during Encounters; it’s a challenging, sexy, uplifting film.

The 15th Encounters South African International Documentary Festival – Africa’s premier documentary event – ran from June 6–16 2013.

Encounters is sponsored by: The NFVF, Bertha Foundation, City Of Cape Town, Wesgro and V&A Waterfront. Guests travel courtesy of Goethe Institut, German Consulate, American Consulate, British Council and French Institute SA.

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