Despite its best efforts, the months-long Covid-19 lockdown in South Africa could not prevent cineastes from joyfully returning to the big screen — with a twist. In Johannesburg on Wednesday night, against all odds, the 2020 Encounters South African International Documentary Festival opened with a screening of the Bell Pottinger exposé, Influence.

As cars rolled in to park in front of the giant outdoor drive-in screen in Kyalami, Johannesburg, moviegoers tumbled out to touch elbows after almost six hard and dreary months of lockdown and isolation.

Despite many setbacks and delays, the 2020 Encounters South African International Documentary Festival opened on August 19 with a drive-in premiere of the much-anticipated political documentary, Influence, hosted by the film’s South African production company, Storyscope.

Possibly the weirdest film premiere in recent South African history, and with lockdown restrictions still in place, it was nonetheless a packed house — or, rather, parking lot.

The rest of this year’s Encounters festival will be online, with all films accessible for free between August 20 and 30. Influence will be available to watch for a limited audience on August 28, alongside more than 70 other local and international titles.

The South African portion of the co-production…



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