The annual Encounters film festival is screening a selection of some of the world’s best queer documentaries.
Now in its 18th year, Africa’s leading documentary festival takes place in Cape Town and Johannesburg from the 2nd to the 12th of June.
In addition to 39 feature films and 18 shorts, it will also include workshops, masterclasses, live music and podcasts. There’s something to suit every taste – from affairs of state, education, body politics, space travel to virtual reality.
The venues are Cinema Nouveau Rosebank and The Bioscope in Joburg and the Labia Theatre and Cinema Nouveau V&A in Cape Town.
Here are the queer highlights of this year’s festival:
In the murky London night, in saunas, clubs and private homes, a new epidemic ravages the gay community, Chemsex – a phenomenon in which sex and drugs are inseparable. In a confessional show-and-tell, this documentary invites gay men to bare their souls: tales of loneliness, loss, addiction, alienation and eventual ruin. But the drugs and the uninhibited, prolonged encounters they engender are deeply addictive. There may be no safety manual in an age of Grindr, social media and HIV but these stories cut to the heart: London may be a ‘gay friendly’ city, but isolation, technology and drugs have created the perfect storm – a burning desire for intimacy and, apparently, gratification.
Representatives from Anova / Health4Men will attend the screenings in Johannesburg and Cape Town to discuss issues raised by the film.
CAPE TOWN: Tues 7 8.45pm CN6 V&A / Fri 10 8.45pm CN6 V&A
JOZI: Thu 9 8.30pm CN1 Rosebank / Sun 12 5.30pm Bio
MAPPLETHORPE: LOOK AT THE PICTURES
Directors Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato trace controversial artist Robert Mapplethorpe, from his middle-class, small-town upbringing to his success in the 1980s New York art world until his death in 1989 from Aids-related illness. Mapplethorpe follows both the pictures and the development of the man. Enriched with interviews from a wide range of curators, celebrities, models, lovers and family, the major voice is Mapplethorpe’s own through a series of archival audio.
CAPE TOWN: Sun 5 8pm CN4 V&A / Wed 8 8.30pm CN4 V&A / Sat 11 5.30pm CN4 V&A
JOZI: Sun 5 8pm CN1 Rosebank
THE NIGHT IS FADING
Leuthy travels with his father and lover to Algeria, the aim is to uncover both men’s ties to the country. His father is a Pied-Noir, a fourth generation European migrant to Algeria whose family fled during the Algerian Revolution. This return, some 50 years later, is so that he can make peace with his past. For Leuthy’s lover, the expedition is one of discovery, a search for family he has only recently learned about. The journey sees the three men uncover emotions long suppressed and is further complicated as Leuthy and his partner struggle to hide their relationship and sexuality from the intimidating patriarch. Set against the backdrop of rural Algeria the film is a personal and moving meditation on the long-lasting effects of colonialism.
CAPE TOWN: Sat 4 6pm Labia3
JOZI: Sun 12 7.45pm Bio
THE PEARL OF AFRICA
In 2014, the Ugandan tabloid Red Pepper published the personal information of 200 LGBTI people in Uganda. Cleopatra Kambugu’s name appeared on that list. This tender film tells the story of Cleo’s subsequent decision to leave Uganda with her husband, Nelson Kasaija, to undergo gender-reassignment surgery in Thailand. Rather than methodically elaborate the context of Cleo’s decision, or the basis of Uganda’s virulent anti-LGBTI politics, Swedish director von Wallström quietly observes the couple as they head off, by rail and air, to a new life. His camera records the obvious intimacy that bonds Cleo and Nelson, revelling both in Cleo’s loquaciousness and Nelson’s steadfast, if largely silent presence. This is a quiet and expansive portrait of two remarkable people.
CAPE TOWN: Fri 3 7pm CN6 V&A / Sat 11 7.45pm Labia3
JOZI: Fri 3 7pm Bio
PINK BOY (short film)
Jeffrey, a gender non-conforming 6 year old, loves all things sparkly and pink. His adoptive butch lesbian mother, is aware of both his vulnerability and powerful self-discovery and must find the delicate balance between giving him the freedom to be herself, and keeping them safe.
(Screens with The Pearl of Africa)
STRIKE A POSE
In the beginning… there was Madonna and she broke new ground for performing artists during her Blonde Ambition World Tour in 1990. It coincided with the height of the AIDS epidemic in the USA and her provocative lyrics, challenging the secrecy of the day, were as vilified by church and conservatives as they were lauded by gay rights activists. Twenty-five years after the movie Truth or Dare, which revealed the off-stage life of the tour, her back-up dancers reconnect to tell their tales, and it’s more revealing than perhaps Madonna would like. The seven young men who scandalised audiences in the 90s reveal deeper truths about their lives and loves post Madonna.
One of the dancers, Carlton Wilborn, will be in attendance in Cape Town.
CAPE TOWN: Fri 3 8.30pm Labia1 / Fri 10 6.30pm CN4 V&A / Sat 11 8pm Labia1
JOZI: Sat 4 6pm CN1 Rosebank
For a full line-up, programme and booking info, visit the Encounters website.