‘Mother City’ selected to open this year’s Encounters South African International Documentary Festival

A scene from “Mother City”. Picture: Supplied.

A scene from “Mother City”. Picture: Supplied.

Published May 22, 2024


The Encounters South African International Documentary Festival is returning with an exciting line-up of local and international films, which are set to captivate audiences.

The event will be staged at various venues in Cape Town and Johannesburg from June 20 to 30.

This year’s festival focuses on amplifying diverse voices with insightful perspectives and compelling narratives.

Film-makers Miki Redelinghuys and Pearlie Joubert’s captivating “Mother City” has been selected to open the premier documentary festival.

The hard-hitting film grapples with the rights for access and fairness for people to be able to participate in an urban economy.

It exposes the hardships of those who are frequently vilified for attempting to legitimately assert their right to a place of residence with their families.

The exquisitely shot documentary offers a personal and devastating look at the politics of urbanism.

Over six years, the film-makers followed activists involved in the “Reclaim the City” campaign as they settled into Cape Town's abandoned spaces and used them as a platform from which to advocate for the concerns of the working class.

A scene from “Mother City”. Picture: Supplied

It shows activist Nkosikhona (Face) Swartbooi and his colleagues fighting for their rights in Parliament and the courts. It also depicts the lavish dinner parties, the streets and the houses of the elite and powerful.

Joubert said: “When Miki and I started filming ‘Mother City’, we dreamt that our film would shift permanently, the way one million visitors to Cape Town see this city and her policies.

“Now so many years later, we have witnessed only how politicians and property developers have formed and cemented an impenetrable wall, keeping the poor out and away. ‘Mother City’ is our ode to how ‘gatvol’ we are of this status quo.”

"It’s a classic David verses Goliath struggle between property power, politics and fervent campaigners,” the statement added.

“The film offers an opportunity to walk in the shoes of the oppressed and dispossessed, to understand the real struggle for people needing homes closer to work, education and recreation and are not simply banished to the outskirts of urban areas,” it read.

Despite being deeply in love with his home city, Redelinghuys said that “love can also be painful in as much as it is beautiful.”

“This film is an expression of many diverse lives observed through our lens and we hope our audience leaves inspired with a vision for building a shared democratic South Africa. We are extremely grateful that we have been able to share this story.”

A scene from “Mother City”. Picture: Supplied

Festival director Mandisa Zitha added that “Mother City” was selected because it represented the heart of what documentary film-making is about.

“It is dedicated, tenacious and vociferous in its approach to following a group of activists over a long period, to capture their challenges and frustrations, and, indeed, their successes.

“It speaks to the power of film in exposing the arduous journey so many in this world have to embark on to effect change. It is also a universally powerful story of the triumph of the collective,” Zitha said.

Produced by Joubert, Redelinghuys and Kethiwe Ngcobo, “Mother City” will have its world premiere at the Sheffield Doc Fest in the UK in June before its African premiere at the Encounters South African International Documentary Festival later that month.