Encounters South African International Documentary Festival (Encounters) is the premier documentary festival in Africa and one of the oldest film festival on the continent.

It remains one of only a few on the continent that is solely dedicated to the genre. Since its inception, the festival has advanced the currency of documentaries in the country and region, supporting new productions and giving an African platform to international documentaries.


The Encounters South African International Documentary Festival first took place in 1999. Since then, its main objective has been to develop the documentary industry in South Africa, both in terms of increasing production and creating an audience for the genre. The festival actively seeks to support and promote local and African films, filmmakers and festivals to an international market.

Encounters takes place annually in both Cape Town and Johannesburg during the month of June. In 2012, the festival drew 11,000 audience members, and in its 14-year life-span, there have been 139,556 attendees. Since its inception, the festival has presented 1,461 films, of which 487 are South African titles.

Above and beyond its status as a documentary festival, Encounters also puts great emphasis on the coordination of educational projects.

From 1999-2007, the Film Laboratory gave selected first-time directors the opportunity to work with a team of experienced filmmakers on proposed projects of their own. Every year, the week-long initiative ended with a final pitching session from which e.tv commissioned two films to be produced. Over the years, the Laboratory trained 58 emerging and experienced filmmakers, producing 46 films including shorts on the mobi platform.

The Producers Workshop, a further educational platform has trained 24 emerging SMME Producers whilst the High Schools Programme has screened films with facilitated discussions in 12 high schools in greater Cape Town.

Annual events

Every year the festival hosts and incorporates a number of events above and beyond the film screenings themselves.

After world premieres (usually of South African films) and screenings of international guests’ films, question and answer sessions open to the public often take place. Master classes are conducted by local and international guests — producers, writers, commissioning editors, sales agents and distributors, addressing a wide range of topics; anything from industry trends to effective marketing and crowd funding. Similarly, but more specifically targeted towards government arts & culture departments and institutes, are the Industry Presentations on offer. The festival also aims to help and advise small production companies on best practice through the “Producers Workshop”.

To broaden the base of the documentary audience, Encounters offers cinema tickets and free entrance to Industry programmes to students and young professionals from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Est.: 1999
Country:  South Africa
City: Cape Town
Type: International
Web: www.encounters.co.za