19 June 2018

South Africa: Civil Society Rescues Encounters International Documentary Festival

analysis

Encounters, the South African International Documentary Festival, faced a financing deficit that would have discontinued it as an "essential fixture" in the South African film landscape. However, civil society came to the rescue of this important cultural event.

For two decades, the festival has been arguably the continent's premier showcase for non-fiction film, and almost did not happen because it had lost support from its main funder, The National Film and Video Foundation.

It was only on the eve of the event's opening night, on its 20th anniversary, that that organisers were informed in a letter that the event faced closure after the NFVF declined its usual request for funding.

Within two weeks of the festival's opening, Encounters managed to receive a rescue package from civil society which resulted in a dramatic turnaround as supporters stepped forward to help bridge the big financial funding gap.

Bertha Foundation, an organisation which supports activists, storytellers and lawyers who create artwork and fight for social, economic and human rights, became this year's largest donor. Open Society Foundation and Spier were also among the biggest supporters.

Encounters needed to raise R700,000 to compensate for the lost NFVF funds. However, through the festival's crowdfunding campaign,...

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