Powerful ‘Mother City’ to open Encounters festival

Reclaim the City/Stop the Sale of Tafelberg protest. Picture: supplied

Reclaim the City/Stop the Sale of Tafelberg protest. Picture: supplied

Published May 26, 2024


Cape Town - The South African documentary Mother City will be the big drawcard at the Encounters South African International Documentary Festival which takes place at venues in Cape Town and Johannesburg from June 20 to 30.

The film festival, renowned for its commitment to showcasing diverse voices, insightful perspectives, and compelling narratives, has announced that Mother City, directed by Miki Redelinghuys and Pearlie Joubert, as the opening film in a line-up of local, African, and international films that are making waves or have garnered critical acclaim at festivals worldwide.

Mother City is a deeply human and often heart-breaking look at the politics of urbanism. The film-makers follow activists of the Reclaim the City movement over six years as they make Cape Town's abandoned spaces their home, and use it as a base from which to lobby for the needs of the working class.

Nkosikhona “Face” Swartbooi Site B action. Picture: supplied

In a classic David versus Goliath battle between activists and politicians and property power, Nkosikhona “Face” Swartbooi and his peers take to the streets, the courts, the fancy dinner functions, Parliament and the homes of the people in power to get their voices heard.

They travel to Barcelona to meet the mayor who has turned Barcelona's housing crisis around, searching for solutions to the ever-growing housing crisis in Cape Town.

The organisers said the film offered an opportunity to walk in the shoes of the oppressed and dispossessed, to understand the real struggle of people needing homes closer to work, education,

and recreation, and who should not simply be banished to the outskirts of urban areas.

Mandisa Shandu, Ndifuna Ukwazi lwayer. Picture: supplied

“It grapples with the rights for access, and fairness to be able to actively participate in an urban economy,” said festival director, Mandisa Zitha. “It lays bare the struggles of people who are often vilified and ‘othered' for trying to rightfully claim a space to live with their families.

“Mother City has been selected as our opening film, as it represents the heart of what documentary film-making is about.”

“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.”

“I have always thought of Mother City as a love letter to the city I call home and love very deeply,” said Redelinghuys.

“But 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 gratefu we have been able to share this story.”

Joubert, an acclaimed investigative journalist who's spent years as a news producer for ITV, Sky News and the BBC, added, “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 only witnessed 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.”

Mother City will have its World Premiere at the Sheffield Doc Fest in the UK in June, before its African premiere at Encounters on June 20.

For more information on it and on the festival, go to: https://encounters. co.za/

Weekend Argus

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