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The Last Encounters Documentary Film Festival?

The Encounters Documentary Film Festival has been running for 20 years. During this time the festival has become a much-anticipated calendar event, and the premiere documentary festival in Africa. With many environmental causes, on-going poaching and a civil war-ravaged continent, Africa seems to be at the forefront of documentary film-making with many filmmakers using Africa as the destination of choice. While the Encounters Documentary Film Festival has been running for two decades, it's at a critical turning point in terms of funding.


With many sponsors reducing their sponsorship, they have become more reliant on their major sponsors such as the National Film and Video Foundation. Unfortunately, at the eleventh hour, actually on the opening night of the festival, their funding was cut. Anticipating this reluctance from the NFVF, they started a crowdfunding project under the hashtag #HelpKeepEncountersAlive to raise R700,000 in order to sustain the festival. The festival went ahead even though the goal wasn't achieved, making it even more important that they find a new flagship sponsor if its to continue in 2019.

Renowned for featuring world-class documentaries and serving as an important showcase for documentary filmmakers, it will be a travesty for the Encounters Documentary Film Festival to make 2018 its last year. Encouraging young filmmakers, inspiring the next generation of documentary filmmakers and creating jobs around the event, it is important that this festival continue. Sadly, in a tough economic environment it's becoming more and more difficult to lure advertisers to get involved with these kinds of annual projects.

While international funding institutions certainly make things easier, it seems odd that the Encounters Documentary Film Festival hasn't been able to garner more worldwide support. A blossoming film industry, the subject of many documentaries, becoming a popular destination for film-making, the obvious benefits of the exchange rate and being able to have an active influence and control over the showcase, it seems strange that no one has taken an active interest in rescuing the renowned South African film festival.

Trying to ramp up that kind of branding and reputation isn't easy, which would make any successor sluggish in terms of its drive to create something similar, making it seem like a lost opportunity for a bigger entity not to get involved. Appealing to a key figure like Leonardo DiCaprio, as a strong proponent of documentary films, having been instrumental in The 11th Hour and Before the Flood, it wouldn't take much terms of investment when you work it back into Rands. Add your support behind Spling's tweet or begin your own campaign to get the message heard.

This year's festival featured a myriad of documentary features and short films... here are two.

The Deminer follows a Kurdish Colonel who made it his life's mission to save lives by defusing mines and bombs in the city of Mosul, Iraq. Working on behalf of the U.S. Army, this brave man could have been the inspiration for Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker in the relentless manner he carried out his work. A family man of eight children, his matter of fact style is next level in terms of confidence. Known as "Crazy Fahkir" by his co-workers, and becoming a national icon of sorts, the man's altruistic efforts are inspiring,and his family's interviews demonstrate that while he was constantly in the field, he was well-loved.

Taking a fly-on-the-wall cinéma vérité style documentary footage we get a unique perspective and thrilling account of the man's life going into very dangerous terrain and seeing him disarm bombs and mines using nothing but a simple knife and a pair of clippers. Taking a camera behind-the-scenes, we get a first hand account of a true hero. Even after facing near-fatal explosions and having a target on his back, Colonel Fahkir went on... The Deminer ensures that his story will endure.

Then, following the rags-to-riches success story of Trevor Noah, Kill or Die, a low-budget local doccie, follows the journey of several local comedians from all walks of life. The title references the need for comedians to dominate the stage, establishing a great rapport with the audience or suffering the humiliation of feigned laughter and the possibility of being booed off stage. Focusing on the trajectory of several comedians, most in the early stages of their career, this fly-on-the-wall documentary goes behind-the-scenes to get the inside story of what it takes.

Talent and hard work are the cornerstones of the profession, and this documentary gets to grips with the rigours and ability of comedians to pick themselves up. Taking the leap of faith and moving from traditional career paths onto stand-up stages is no easy feat, requires great self belief and is easier said than done. Yet somehow each of these comedians is able to rise above their circumstances coming from very humble backgrounds to the limelight where they're able to shine. Centring predominantly around a charming and cocky comedian with a bright future ahead of him, we see a star in the making, who seems ready to command his own show. Then, following a rising star female comedian, we discover a woman with fresh challenges. Another comedian who uses a puppet as part of his show, finds himself in South Africa turning his street smarts into comic agility, while another up-and-coming comedian discovers it's a lot tougher to get noticed, taking a few knocks along the way.

With incredible international and local documentaries featuring at the Encounters Documentary Film Festival, it's quite tragic that there's a strong chance they won't get the same platform in 2019... unless we do something about it.

Some of the Most Memorable Romantic Films of All-Time...

You're never going to get any two movie lovers to agree on a list of the best films of any genre. For instance, science fiction fans were thrilled to find out that a sci-fi film, The Shape of Water, won the 2018 Oscars while Vegas casino film-goers who don't enjoy science fiction were appalled.

Yet among dedicated movie buffs there is a level of agreement regarding some romantic movies that are generally accepted as being at the top of the pile.

Some of those include:

The Americanization of Emily

The Americanization of Emily was released in 1964. James Garner plays a WWII naval officer who does everything possible to remove himself from battle in his struggle to stay alive. He often hides out in the London flat of his navy buddy (James Coburn) where he falls in love with a war widow (Julie Andrews). When Garner is chosen to land on Omaha beach in D-Day's initial landing party he redeems himself and earns Emily's respect and love.

One of the reasons that this film resonates with so many people is that it puts all the romantic clichés to test --heroism on the battlefield, self-sacrifice and loyalty in the bedroom. Emily lost her father, husband and brother in World War II but she continues to believe in service to country even while trying to avoid the cultural complicity that pushes men to be heroes.

Brokeback Mountain

This movie, set against the sweeping landscapes of Texas and Wyoming, tells the tale of two young men -- a rodeo cowboy and a ranch-hand who meet in the summer of 1963 during a cattle drive. They forge a lifelong relationship despite its complications and tragedies, providing a testament to the power and endurance of love, however unconventional.

The romantic drama ranks 12th among the highest-grossing movies of this genre. Ennis Del Mar is in love with Jack Twist. Ennis is stoic and closed while Jack is open. Jack envisions life with Ennis but Ennis is reticent, fearing a love that goes against convention and normative boundaries.

The two secretive lovers call their bond “a goddam bitch of an unsatisfactory situation"; which is further complicated by the fact that both are married and don't have any idea of how to relate to their wives, especially after their affair begins.

Jack's blend of naivete and savvy contrasts with Ennis's repression that actor Heath Leger portrays by constantly clenching his jaw. This movie doesn't have a happy ending but it's a life lesson that shows how innocuous youthfulness gives way to austere, hard maturity.


In many ways Casablanca is the classic by which all other romantic stories are compared. The WWII movie starred Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Berman, Peter Lorre, Claude Rains, Paul Henreid and Sydney Greenstreet, the A-listers of the '40s who created a masterpiece that not only gave viewers a great love story but also stirred up patriotism and gave audiences a sense of hope in the dark days when the Allies were struggling against the Axis powers.

The action takes place in Casablanca where Rick Blaine (Humphry Bogart) runs a nightclub. Rick is cynical and jaded but his patriotism is tested when he comes into possession of two letters of transit which could offer someone the chance to escape from Nazi-ruled Casablanca and travel to neutral Portugal.

Nazi Major Strasser, in the meantime, is pursuing Victor Laslow, a Czechoslovakian underground leader. Lazlo's wife, Ilsa, was an old flame of Ricks and they still carry a flame for each other. The pair consider using the letters of transit to run off together but Rick's patriotism wins out and in the end he sends Ilsa on the plane with her husband as he develops his own plans to join the struggle against the Nazis.

Movie critics have always regarded Casablanca as the romance by which all other films should be measured. There are no pat, happy endings in this film but it captures all of the pathos of a couple in love who must think of the bigger picture before they consider their own happiness.

Love Story

If you came of age in the '70s you are probably familiar with this story that explores how true love can endure. The movie is based on a book by Erich Segal that tells the story of Oliver Barrett IV, a preppy Harvard student who falls in love with Jenny, working class girl. Against his upper crust parents'; wishes they get married and struggle as Oliver studies at law school.

Jenny fails to conceive and the tests show that it's because she has cancer. Oliver's devastation and devotion are chronicled throughout her last months and death. The movie is regarded as a classic that showed how love changes a person for the better -- even though the finale isn't always the way that we'd want it to end.

An Officer and a Gentleman

An Officer and a Gentleman is a true feel-good film that packs all the elements of a good story into an hour and a half film. Richard Gere plays Zack Mayo who aspires to be a navy pilot. He's aloof but at the training camp for his 13-week officer's course he becomes involved in an affair with working girl Paula Pokrifi (Debra Winger).

Zack is as closed as a person can get but when his best friend Sid commits suicide over an unhappy romance, Paula helps Zack to realize the importance of opening up. Slowly he begins to learn how to give of himself to the benefit of those around him and himself.

"Movie Review": Royal Wedding (2018)

The Royal Wedding (2018) is a romance drama starring Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. The much-anticipated sequel to The Royal Wedding (2011), starring Prince William and Kate Middleton, has been a long time coming with the production stuck in development.

The leads, Harry and Meghan, have excellent chemistry, delivering down-to-earth performances and generating some smouldering heat. Markle is probably best known for her role in Suits, while former child star Prince Harry has made a number of regular appearances in tabloids. While somewhat slow-moving, it's a heartfelt creation boosted by earnest performances and some fun cameos from George Clooney and David Beckham.

Somewhat eclectic, the wardrobe is largely traditional and respectable, with some quirky touches, including a fascinating array of hats among the guests.

A lively gospel choir insert and an inspirational sermon by a surprise performer cleverly counter-balance moments of stuffy stiff-collaredness. Thankfully The Royal Wedding isn't overly preachy, playing to its universal theme of love and hope. The soundtrack fits the genre perfectly without becoming overpowering with highlights including three particularly stirring cello pieces.

The Royal Wedding (2018) is a real treat, playing to its target audience's expectations of fairy tale romance with fitting decorum and elegant charm. While the production isn't in line with Disney, it's harmless and has a similar ebb-and-flow in terms of the consistency of its feel good tone.

While the car chase and action sequences are by-and-large underwhelming, they are beautifully filmed, and this production plays to its core strengths, offering an entertaining and inspiring occasion for those wanting to cherish pristine, well-to-do and historical moments of life celebrated on the world stage.

7 Upcoming Movies for 2018

Movie fans often turn to online games in the weeks and months between the new Hollywood releases. Summer is almost here and the movies that we've been hearing about for the past few months are due to be released, offering entertainment for viewers of all tastes and interests.

Some of the more intriguing upcoming releases include:

Fishbowl California

Michael McRae directs Fishbowl California, a movie that shows how hope and positivity can arise out of what seems to be a desperate situation. Rodney (Steve Oldson) hasn't held a job in quite a while. He find out that his girlfriend Tess is cheating on him and he leaves the house and wanders around in a distraught state of mind.

When his car dies he simply falls asleep right behind the wheel. The next morning the neighbor in front of whose house his car stalled (June, played by Katherine Cortez) wakes him up. June is a widow who is dealing with her own despair through alcohol.

June puts Rodney to work and the accidental meeting starts to change both of their lives for the better.

Fishbowl California is billed as a Comedy/Drama that also stars Katrina Bowden, Kate Flannery and Richard Riehle. The movie is still in production and no release date has been determined.

Life of the Party

Life of the Party is due to be released on May 11th. The feel-good film focuses on housewife Deanna whose life is turned upside down when her husband dumps her after years of marriage and household and childcare duties.

Deanna decides to reset her life and goes back to college where she finds herself in her daughter's classes. Her daughter, as can be expected, isn't thrilled but Deanna plunges straight into the campus experience, becoming increasingly outspoken  as she embraces fun, freedom and frat boys The new "Dee Rock" also finds herself as she completes her degree and sets out on an adventure of independence and self-reliance.

The hilarious Melissa McCarthy plays Deanna with strong supporting roles by Debby Ryan, Adria Ariona and Julie Bowden.

Solo: A Star Wars Story

Solo: A Star Wars Story is a long-awaited Star Wars prequel that explores the backstory of Han Solo and his lovable sidekick Chewbacca. Ever since the first Star Wars film was released in 1977 viewers have wanted to know more about Han Solo, the beloved scoundrel who joined the forces of good to battle Darth Vader and the Dark Side.

Solo: a Star Wars Story is due in movie theatres on May 24th. Fans are eagerly awaiting answers to 40-year-old questions – how did Han meet Chewbacca and notorious gambler Lando Calrissian?

It's fitting that Disney Studios has taken this project on since the Disney brand of fantasy that combines with fun and suspense will most likely be the best vehicle to flesh out this story.

It's been allowed to slip that the studio has already signed Alden Ehrenreich, the young actor who is playing Han Solo, for two more Han Solo movies so audiences can start preparing themselves to see a lot more of the Han Solo saga.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Movie aficionados who enjoy sequels will have another opportunity to see the follow-up to a time-honored classic with Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. The Jurassic Park franchise is now under the capable direction of J.A. Bayona with new stars and old favorites returning to the Jurassic world of cloned dinosaurs.

The movie is due out on June 7 and follows Owen and Claire who return to Isla Nublar to save the dinosaurs from a once-dormant volcano that has become active. If the volcano spews, all life, including the remaining dinosaurs, will be extinguished and Owen and Claire want to prevent that from happening.

During the visit Owen searches for Blue, his beloved raptor from the original movie. In the process he discovers a conspiracy that has the potential to disrupt the natural order of the entire planet.

Ocean's 8

Another sequel that has the fans sitting on the edge of their seats is Ocean's 8, a continuation of the exploits of some of the most daring (and good-looking) thieves on the planet. The star-studded cast is sure to draw audiences in droves – the movie stars Cate Blanchett, Dakova Fanning, Olivia Munn, Matt Damon, Anne Hathaway, Sandra Bullock, Richard Armitage, Helena Bonham Carter, Sarah Paulson, Jamie King, Katie Holmes, Mindy Kaling, Rihanna, James Corden and Kylie Jenner.

Once again, a group of beautiful people, led by Danny Ocean's estranged sister Debbie, attempt to pull off a heist at New York City's Met Gala.

Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation

If Adam Sandler and Mel Brooks are listed in a movie's credits, you know that it's going to be a wild ride. That's what you can expect from Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation in which the beloved characters of the Hotel Transylvania franchise come back to vacation together.

Genndy Tartakovsky directs this animated adventure in which the monster family takes a break from giving other travelers a vacation and sets out on their own travels in a luxury monster cruise ship.

Almost immediately Dracula meets Erica, the ship captain and Mavis tries to keep the 2 lovebirds apart. Erica's instincts turn out to be right-on because it turns out that Erica is actually a descendant of Abraham Van Helsing, ancient nemesis to all monsters – including Dracula.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

How could anything go wrong with a cast that includes Meryl Streep, Lily James, Amanda Seyfried, Cher, Julie Walters, Colin Firth, Pierce Brosnan, Christine Baranski, Andy Garcia and other A-listers.

This is another 2018 sequel but it's one that seems destined to deliver the kind of entertainment that viewers want. As daughter Sophie moves through her own pregnancy, Meryl Streep's character Donna – played as a young Donna by Lily James – reminisces about her own pregnancy with Sophie and her romances with the men that became a part of her life.

The movie is due out in July and includes all of the musical entertainment that audiences remember from Mamma Mia.

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