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Top Picks at the 2021 Encounters South African International Documentary Festival

The Encounters South African International Documentary Festival has announced its line-up of over 50 visual escapades to watch both online and in selected theatres. Truth-seeking, searing and undoubtedly moving African stories are what cinephiles can certainly look forward to. Themes explored in the documentaries include: culture, dance, homosexuality, politics, migration, refugee rights, homophobia, queer rights, colonialism and land rights.


I am Samuel is just what to watch especially during international Pride month. The documentary traces out the lived realities of members of the LGBTQIA+ community in a country where homosexuality is a punishable criminal offence. Samuel’s secret gay life is complicated by his father who is a preacher and expects Samuel to be married. He ultimately has to make the decision to tell his father about his sexual orientation — a decision which may cost him his family’s acceptance and endanger his life.

There is Power in the Collar is an interrogative documentary that explores the dangerous intersection of homophobia, Christianity and colonialism in Africa, especially Botswana. A queer human rights organisation fights to decriminalise same-sex relations under the country’s constitution — a decision the courts have been considering since 2019.

The Men Who Speak Gayle looks at the development of drag culture in Cape Town. The title alludes to a code-switching language used between gay men years back. The documentary follows a young mixed-race drag queen who is in search of Louis, a white elderly gay man and original Gayle speaker, who currently lives in a conservative South African desert town.

Other notable documentaries are South Africa’s Murder in Paris and Burkina Faso’s The Golden Wolf of Balolé, among several others.

The festival will run from 10 June 2021 – 20 June 2021. Tickets are on sale for both online and theatre viewing at The Bioscope, 44 Stanely, Milpark in Johannesburg. For more information and the viewing catalogue, visit the Encounters International Documentary website.

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