The Encounters South African International Documentary Festival, in partnership with Al Jazeera, is calling African filmmakers to submit proposals for the Al Jazeera-Encounters Pitching Forum taking place in Johannesburg on Saturday, June 11, 2016. The deadline is this Friday, 27 May 2016. Selected applicants who cannot physically attend will be able to participate via Skype.

The call is open to projects at any stage of development or production. Each selected filmmaker will have a maximum of seven minutes to pitch their film, with an additional seven minutes allocated for feedback and questions.

A maximum of 12 African filmmakers will be selected to pitch to Aloke Devichand, a senior commissioning producer in the documentaries department at Al Jazeera English.

Projection equipment will be provided for those that have DVDs or other visual presentations to augment their pitch.

The pitching forum has been highly successful in creating opportunities for filmmakers. Last year Al Jazeera commissioned two one-hour documentaries from projects at the forum.

Submission Details

Interested parties should send:

  • A one-page synopsis of their film
  • A one-page biography of the filmmaker and producer, including complete contact details (Skype contact, telephone number, city of residence, home and work addresses)
  • One page of further background information and/or visual treatment of the subject.
  • Links to previous works and promo of proposal, if available.

Email this to pa@encounters.co.za with Al Jazeera Pitching Forum in the subject line.

Submission deadline: On or before 4pm (South African time), this Friday, 27 May 2016.

Pitching To “Witness”

“Witness” is an immersive, character-led strand on Al Jazeera English with a focus on observational, visual storytelling.

The strand has one-hour and half-hour slots each week. The former are usually acquired or co-productions, while the latter are normally commissioned projects.

“Witness” looks for the following elements in their half-hour commissions:

  • A strong central character/s who ‘owns’ the film and tells their own story
  • A specific journey that the character/s are on with the potential to capture an unfolding narrative, compelling storylines and a sense of transformation
  • Actuality-driven narrative style with well-shot observational scenes and confidently crafted sequences
  • Few or no formal sit-down interviews. We prefer ‘in-situation’ interviews filmed while characters are immersed in the events driving the film
  • Films that are character-driven, rather than issue-driven, but still have a current affairs theme as a backdrop. We aim to provide depth and context to topical issues through the lived experiences of the characters
  • Docs that have a timeless quality and therefore are usually not built around fast changing news events

See http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/witness/  to gain a sense of the Al Jazeera “Witness” documentary style.

Documentaries, Series & Stand-alone Films

  • There are non-strand slots for series and stand-alone documentaries of half hour and hour durations which are commissioned, acquired or co-produced. These documentaries should be by, about and from a range of people, places and perspectives, challenge dominant views and seek to reflect the human experiences and stories behind current affairs in our docs.

Investigative Programmes

  • There are also weekly strands which commission ‘reportage’ – journalist-led investigative programmes, like People & Power and occasionallyAfrica Investigates.


Al Jazeera is one of the world’s leading media corporations, encompassing news, documentary and sport channels. It was the first independent news channel in the Arab world dedicated to covering and uncovering stories in the region. It is now a media network consisting of over 20 channels – Al Jazeera English, Al Jazeera Arabic, Al Jazeera Balkans, Al Jazeera Sport, Al Jazeera Mubasher, Al Jazeera Documentary, the Al Jazeera Media Training and Development Center, and the Al Jazeera Center for Studies.

For more information, visit www.aljazeera.com.