For Sama – the experience

Clair O’Reilly experiences For Sama – at the virtual Encounters Film Festival 2020.

The documentary from Syria is pipped for a documentary Oscar and provides a rare account of the female experience of war. Taking the form of a love letter from a young mother to her daughter, the film tells the story of journalist Waad al-Kateab’s life through five years of the uprising in Aleppo.

Good Hope for all

Temba Mkosi takes a roller coaster ride to the future

A rise of pessimism in South Africa is a worrying factor as social and economic inequality widens due to the current state of the nation and its complex history. Good Hope is a documentary for those who still believe in a positive future for South Africa. Director Anthony Fabian explores the complex state of the country and takes the viewer through scenarios of pessimism, solutions and optimism for the future. (more…)

A zoom for two – From Underground to the Corridors of Power

A zoom review for two that opens a lot of conversation after watching a documentary about earlier times and Cyril Ramaphosa and the mines. From Underground to the Corridors of Power.
Have a look and listen at a new review style.

Production by Catherine White

No place to call iKhaya

Ongezwa Shosha goes on a journey searching for identity

It is said that through knowing where you come from, your history, roots, language and values, comes your identity. But what happens when a home you’ve been calling a home your whole life is not your home? Ikhaya or Casa (home) centers around redefining what a home and sense of belonging is. It starts off by asking questions: “Where do I belong? What do I call home? Is it the language I speak? Is it where I am accepted? Is it where I was raised? Or is it where I was born?”. These are some questions asked by 19 year old Eliana Nkembo, a young woman born to immigrant parents in a foreign country when talking about her identity.
The documentary shows that many factors including documentation and citizenship may hinder one’s chances of belonging and feeling accepted. Eliana Nkembo, was raised in South Africa when her parents moved from Angola and Congo. She finds herself in a position where she has no place to rightfully call home. (more…)

The Red Place shows some colours of forgiveness

Catherine White is moved by a documentary exploring vulnerability

Forgive and forget? That is not easy but sometimes it can be an extremely powerful process. The Red Place is about – as the tagline puts it in a very poetic way- the colours of forgiveness. It’s an incredibly profound and relevant topic, particularly for South Africans. We are taken along a journey as director and scritwriter Muofe Raphunga speaks to various people who share their stories and their thoughts on forgiveness. Her interview with Albie Sachs, a former constitutional judge and anti-apartheid activist, was particulalry inspiring. (more…)

Mother to Mother as a film

Khethiwe Shobede sees a film looking at questions of violence

No one can ever understand the depth of a mother’s love. Through thick and thin, troubles and pain, trials and tribulations, it never fades. A mother’s prayer is for her children to live a life they can all be proud of and a mother’s nightmare is for her children, in this case her son, being convicted for the murder of a young woman. The murder of Amy Biehl occurred in the pre-election violence of 1994. Mother to Mother, based in Gugulethu, Cape Town and directed by Sara Christina Ferreira de Gouveia, is based a one-woman play staged by Thembi Mtshali which explores the challenges of being the mother of the infamous murderer of Amy Biehl. (more…)

Sakawa and the internet scammers

Michael Taylor reviews a film on cyber-cons in Ghana

Sakawa is an interesting, though ultimately underwhelming documentary film. It foregoes the traditional interviews and pieces to camera that one might expect from a documentary, instead focusing on an observational style of storytelling. We follow a group of young Ghanaian men and women as they attempt to make a living by scamming European and Americans through dating sites, phone calls and more. Lacking any narration, the question of whether the activities of these men and women is justified is left up to the viewer, which I do believe was the right decision on director Ben Asamoah’s part. The film shows the poverty of the area that these individuals have grown up in, and how they long for a better life. It also shows how exploitative some people can be towards those in less privileged positions. By the same token, the film never tries to pretend that what these people are doing isn’t unethical. We see these individuals combing through their target’s family photos, home addresses and other personal information with little concern as the con and coax them out of hundreds of dollars at a time. The film is quite explicit and does not shy away from the adult language and themes that one might expect from this kind of online activity. (more…)

Looking at the Brown Skinned Girl

Ongezwa Shosha reviews a doc that resonates

Who is deemed beautiful? What features should they have? The complex concept of skin colour as a beauty standard is much questioned yet still very dominant as a determiner of what is beautiful. With integration of brown skinned women in Hollywood movies and media, the concept of skin complexion is challenged as a normative standard of beauty.

In Brown Skinned Girl director Mona-Lisa Msime together with Monde Kawana and Constance Chiwaula share their stories of growing up with dark skin. With society’s perception of beauty as being fair skinned, they found themselves battling with low self esteem, often being called racist names and never fitting the accepted category of beautiful. (more…)

Sakawa – the business of con

Khaka Ngcofe finds the story behind the scam gap

It is no secret that there’s an economic gap between third world and first world countries, especially between white and black people. Many African people resort to illegal methods including swindling money from wealthy white people as a method of survival because of their impoverished conditions.
Sakawa, meaning illegal practices in Ghanaian terms. Sakawa is a Ghanaian word for internet fraud schemes that are often combined with religious rituals. Directed by Belgian-Ghanaian Ben Asamoah, follows the lives of young men and women who resort to internet fraud as a means of survival. Asamoah takes ‘a fly on the wall’ observational everything to unfold and for us to formulate our own conclusions. (more…)

Desai and Kaplan’s guide to Stealing A Country

Luvo Mnyobe lowlights a highlight

In just under 90 minutes Mark J Kaplan and Rehad Desai, director of some of the most prolific contemporary documentaries including Everything Must Fall (2018), exploring the Fees Must Fall movement in 2015 and 2016, and Miners Shot Down (2014), on the Marikana Massacre, explores the cronyism in the state with captivating suspense and detail.
In the film How to Steal A Country, he tells the gripping story of how President Jacob Zuma surrendered his executive duties to the Gupta brothers allowing them to control procurement of tenders at State Owned Entities such as Eskom and Transnet that are the bedrock of South Africa’s economy. (more…)

Don’t Miss Heritage Cape Town

Monique January feels the power of a different beauty pagaent

Beauty no longer has one fixed face and body representing it, it comes in all forms, shapes and sizes. While including various physical appearances may seem like the end goal, real beauty is the deeper ideological meaning associated with beauty. This is the prize.
Miss Heritage Cape Town tells an empowering story of surpassing normative beauty standards and celebrating more voluptuous unconventional woman seen through the lens of 20-year-old Olwaba Nkuzi. (more…)

Women – as the first recourse

Leago Mamabolo meets women helping themselves develop their art

There is great value and importance in documenting yourself- particularly for disenfranchised groups who have historically been left out of the picture. Given this, it is no surprise why Zanele Muholi, a South African woman and internationally renowned visual artist, would lead the inspirational project of a Women’s Mobile Museum (WMM). Muholi describes photographing yourself as “giving yourself a voice”. (more…)


Khethiwe Shobede is less than impressed with a documentary on the Holocaust

Displaced is a documentary film directed by Sharon Ryba-Kahn centred around the experience of a third-generation survivor of the Nazi Holocaust and the difficult conversations that still surround the topic. While this exploration of people’s experience of memory and genocide is an interesting and insightful ‘idea’ for a documentary the film itself fails to deliver. It does ask important questions about the effects of the Holocaust three generations after the actual events took place. (more…)

Bellingcat key shifts citizen journalism

Michael Taylor reviews a memorable documentary that questions the truth of headline news challenged by internet investigators

Bellingcat: Truth in a Post Truth World offers a fascinating insight into the world of citizen journalism, telling the story of the individual’s working for the titular Bellingcat investigative news website. Over the course of its 89 minute, Bellingcat goes into detail about the innovative methods that citizens can use to fact check the information that we are presented with on a daily basis. This is all derived from social media, Google Earth and other open source internet data. (more…)

Love conquers all in Blend

Monique January reviews a powerful story of an interracial relationship

South Africa’s historical racial dynamics still loom in the present in interracial relationships like Monique and Leonard’s and remain constant reminders of the past despite the fight to move forward. (more…)

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