The 16th Encounters South African International Documentary Festival will run from 5-15 June 2014 in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

This year’s selection will feature two of the most acclaimed South African documentaries of recent years. 

One of the most important films of post-Apartheid South Africa, Rehad Desai’s heart-breaking “Miners Shot Down” is a comprehensive and damning account of August 16, 2012, when the South African police shot and killed 34 striking miners at Lonmin platinum mine. Essential viewing for every South African, “Miners Shot Down” won at both Movies That Matter and One World, two of the most important human rights documentary festivals worldwide.

21 years ago, for ITV’s award-winning TV series “7UP South Africa,” acclaimed director Angus Gibson filmed a cross-section of the country’s seven-year-old children and asked them about their lives, hopes and dreams. He’s filmed the children every seven years since: first for “14UP,” then “21UP,” and now, as adults, for the BAFTA-nominated “28UP,” screened on both ITV and Al Jazeera last year. The South African show is a spin-off from British director Michael Apted’s multi-award-winning “UP” series, which is on The British Film Institute’s list of The Greatest British TV Shows. 

The South African selection also boasts five world premieres: “Behind The Lens,” “Crumbs – Toppling The Bread Cartel,” “Diaries of A Dissident Poet,” “Spring Queen” and “The Vula Connection.”

Liz Fish’s “Behind The Lens” focuses on 8 South African photographers – Benny Gool, Gille de Vlieg, Guy Tillim, Paul Weinberg, Peter Magubane, Rashid Lombard, Tony Weaver, and Zubeida Vallie – who saw themselves as activists first and photojournalists second, during the Struggle in the 1980s.

Dante Greeff and Richard Finn Gregory’s ” is the story of Imraahn Mukkadam, who blew the whistle on bread price-fixing in the Western Cape in 2006. Imraahn is still locked in a David vs. Goliath battle that is far from over.Crumbs – Toppling The Bread Cartel”

Shelley Barry’s “Diaries of A Dissident Poet” profiles James Matthews, whose “Cry Rage” became the first book of poetry to be banned in South Africa.

“Spring Queen,” directed by Emmy-winner Paul Yule, focuses on Cape Town’s Spring Queen Pageant, which gives the city’s clothing and textile factory workers the chance to be Cinderella for a night.

Marion Edmunds “The Vula Connection” is the untold story of the ANC’s ingenious communications system during the struggle.

Other South African highlights include: Annalet Steenkamp’s award-winning “I, Afrikaner” documents four generations of her Afrikaner family over the course of nine turbulent years as they cling to their identity in a scarred and increasingly unrecognizable country; Jolyn Minnaar’s “Unearthed” is the story of how she becomes an anti-fracking activist after an investigation that takes her across the globe to the USA in search of answers; Abby Ginzberg’s “Soft Vengeance: Albie Sachs and The New South Africa” explores the remarkable life of award-winning author and former Constitutional Court judge Albie Sachs, who lost his right arm and an eye when South African security agents blew up his car in Mozambique in 1988; Sean Drummond, Paulene Abrey and Luaan Hong’s “Outsider” is the story of South Africa artist and provocateur Beezy Bailey; and Meg Rickards and Bert Haitsma’s “1994 – The Bloody Miracle” is a timely reminder of just how close South Africa came to a civil war.

It’s a sign of the times that three of the most high-profile documentaries in this year’s international selection are set in Africa.

“The Square,” nominated for an Oscar and winner of audience awards at Sundance and Toronto, immerses you in the ongoing rollercoaster of the Egyptian revolution.

Executive produced by Brad Pitt, “Big Men” is a fast-paced tour through the high-powered world of African oil deals. Variety called it “a real life Chinatown or There Will be Blood.”

“Finding Fela” is Oscar-winner Alex Gibney’s politically-charged documentary on Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti and the 2009 Broadway musical “Fela!”

Africa’s diversity comes across strongly in the rest of the African selection.

“I Love Kuduro” is a crash-course in the Angolan cultural phenomenon taking the continent by storm; this is arguably the most kick-ass music/dance culture documentary since David LaChappelle’s Rize. 

“National Diploma” is an award-winning look at a group of students in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who take matters into their own hands when they are expelled after failing to pay their teachers unofficial ‘bonuses.’ Director Dieudo Hamadi will be attending Encounters as a guest of the festival.

“Coach Zoran and His African Tigers” is the hilarious, sad and moving story of an eccentric Serbian coaching the national soccer team in South Sudan, the world’s youngest country.

“The Iranian Film” is about a Moroccan cinephile trying to make his graduation film in Iran; it’s a wry love letter to Iranian cinema and the challenges of filmmaking anywhere in the world. 

“Jumping Into Life” is the story of an inspirational performing arts school in Kenya that targets the over 80 000 youths living and working on the streets of Nairobi. It’s proof that art can exist against all odds, especially where it is most urgently needed.

For more information about the festival, visit

Encounters is made possible through the support of the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund (NLDTF), National Film and Video Foundation South Africa (NFVF), Bertha Foundation, Al Jazeera, Wesgro, City of Cape Town, The Times and HCI Foundation.