Gripping Films on Marikana Massacre and Child Eagle Hunter win Backsberg Audience Choice Awards at Encounters Film Festival


Two diverse films with feminist themes were named winners of the Audience Awards for this year’s Encounters Documentary Festival which has just recently concluded in Cape Town. Strike a Rock, a gripping depiction of a number of women fighting for justice in the wake of the Marikana massacre, and Eagle Huntress, the story of the first female in 12 generations to be permitted to become a falconer among the Kazakh people of Mongolia, were voted by audiences as their top local and international films respectively.

Strike a Rock, directed by Johannesburg local Aliki Saragas, follows the journey of a group of women affected by the loss of brothers, husbands, fathers and friends at the hands of the South African Police in August 2012. This event shattered not only their hope of a living wage but brought about a brutal realisation that the ANC “murdered its own people”. The film focuses on the leader and hero of Marikana’s Wonderkop community, now recently elected EFF Member of Parliament Primrose Sonti and Thumeka Magwanquana, her ally and best friend in the struggle for social justice. Their viewpoint is that nothing has changed in the community since before the strike and massacre, and the film follows them on their ongoing struggle to gain dignity and pursue upliftment for the affected community.

Backsberg CEO Simon Back says Strike a Rock is a worthy winner of the Encounters Backsberg Audience Choice Award. He notes that “Marikana has gone down as one of the most important social and political tragedies South Africa has had to endure. Due to its historical significance a lot has still to be written, filmed and said about Marikana, and it is important to continue to highlight the events surrounding this horrific event. The quality filmmaking that resulted in Strike a Rock shows how creative young filmmakers will ensure events such as these are not forgotten, underscoring the importance of the Encounters Documentary Film Festival in inspiring creatives to get these stories on film.”

Back states that the Encounters Festival highlights a number of key causes and issues across the spectrum, something South Africa is in sore need of. “At Backsberg Estate Cellars we are happy to be a part of this critical societal dialogue. This film festival is in sync with our value systems. It speaks to issues surrounding sustainability and social responsibility and it is a necessary platform which is able to highlight these critical matters”.

On the international part of the festival, The Eagle Huntress is the true story of 13-year-old Aisolpan Nurgaiv. Nurgaiv was the first female in 12 generations of her nomadic Kazakh family to learn how to become an eagle hunter. Set in remote parts of Mongolia, sometimes in sub-zero temperatures, the enchanting tale was commended for its breathtaking cinematography. The documentary is the debut feature of US-based British director Otto Bell and is narrated by Daisy Ridley (Star Wars: The Force Awakens).

Back says the response to this film from audiences and critics alike made Eagle Huntress a favourite even before the votes were counted. “A teenager shunning local tradition to become the first female to hunt with a golden eagle….set in the spectacular scenery of Mongolia…well, it is hard not to like the film even before seeing it,” says Back. “As co-sponsors of the Encounters Documentary Festival it is great to see the organisers bringing international films of this quality to our shores. Not only do they inspire local filmmakers and entertain audiences, but they allow the public to experience the fact that South African documentary films are truly world class.”