The winners of the Programmer's Choice Awards were announced at the 2021 Encounters South African International Documentary Festival recently.
“It was an exceedingly difficult decision to select the winners for the Programmer’s Choice Awards. This year, we were spoiled for choice with a wide range of excellent films that creatively stretched the documentary form to bring us fresh perspectives on important issues,” said festival director Mandisa Zitha.
It’s a narrative familiar almost to the point of apathy, but the boldness, access and intimacy of this film hammer home the frustration and continual strain of fighting for political power in Zimbabwe, against a system so corrupt that it almost seems insurmountable, and gives the struggle a human face by going behind the scenes with the young MDC leaders taking the fight onto their underfunded and relatively fresh shoulders. The film's sucker punch ending, steeply contrasted against the relentless hope of the film, doesn't hurt any less because we already know the outcome three years on.
International Feature (Special Mention)
All-In Belgium/Turkey Üce, Volkan
Collective Romania/Luxembourg Alexander Nanou
African/South African Feature (Winner)
The Last Shelter France/Mali/South Africa Dir. Ousmane Samassekou
The programming team was moved by The Last Shelter, which gave full access to the House of Migrants in the Malin city of Gao, a haven for African travellers. Ousmane Samasseku’s great access to the two young protagonists, the intimacy of the observational style filming against the vast melancholy landscape of the desert made this a favourite with the programming team. The Last Shelter was successful in achieving the purpose of the documentary; to cast a lens on world issues through the experiences of its subjects.
African/South African Feature (Special Mention)
The Colonel’s Stray Dogs South Africa/Libya/UK Dir. Khalid Shamis
Mutant South Africa Dir. Lebogang Rasethaba
International Shorts (Winner)
A Year In Exile Syria/Turkey Dir. Malaz Usta
A well-deserved winner that stole the programming team’s hearts with its visual artistry and sonic mastery to tell this familiar story in a new and fresh way. With a touching narration of how it feels to be uprooted, director Malaz Usta takes us through each month of his exile. Visual montage, graphic design and editing work together in this exceptional documentary to construct snippets of moments, people and spaces that encompass the refugee experience. The film excellently captures the emotions of the displaced and draws the audience into a place where they too can identify most intimately.
International Shorts Winner (Special Mention)
The Voice Break Choir Sweden Dir. Ina Holmqvist and Martina Carlstedt
African/South African Shorts (Winner)
Ulwandle (The Ocean) South Africa Dir. PJ Kotze
Ulwandle (The Ocean) captures the stories of two different types of South African fisherman and their relationship with the ocean. Through the two relatable characters and masterful cinematography, director PJ Kotze was able to show us the importance of this form of artisanry for the livelihoods of many South Africans. He emphasises the relationship between man and the ocean whilst highlighting the respect that underpins this. We also come to understand the challenges that are faced by small-scale fishermen in the current conservation climate. The story is not only beautifully told but educational in its subject matter, it is also refreshing in its inclusive representation of the indigenous peoples' fishing culture.
African/South African Shorts (Special Mention)
Trade Secrets South Africa/Kenya Christopher Clark and Shaun Swingler