I Am Here

The award-winning documentary I Am Here, an evocative portrait of a feisty and spirited 98-year-old Capetonian Ella Blumenthal, one of the few remaining Holocaust survivors, will have its joint premiere at the Encounters South African International Documentary Film Festival (10 – 20 June) and the Durban International Film Festival (22 July – 1 August).

Directed by South African filmmaker Jordy Sank, the film follows Ella at her 98th birthday celebration where she shares her story in a rare, honest and candid conversation with close friends and family.  These memories are depicted in 2D animation – typically an unusual medium for Holocaust flashbacks – which adds a nuanced innovation to the texture of Ella’s stories. 

While I Am Here recalls her astonishing endurance, weaved into her narrative of overcoming trauma, are uplifting stories of courage and light. Ella never lost hope, not even in the darkest of times. Some of Ella’s memories include surviving three concentration camps and avoiding death in seemingly serendipitous ways. She was a pillar of support to her niece, Roma, who survived alongside her. 

“Ella encompasses remarkable resilience, boundless energy and unwavering determination – her personality is remarkable not because of what she has been through but in spite of it.” says producer Gabriella Blumberg. “We hope that the film can be a catalyst for speaking about all forms of discrimination in a world that still defines itself by what is other.”

Jordy Sank describes meeting Ella for the first time “I had interacted with Holocaust survivors before, but none were quite like this. I knew that the world needed to learn from Ella Blumenthal’s stories and the awe-inspiring way she lives her life today.”

The film won the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival and was also screened at the Miami Jewish Film Festival earlier this year.

This film was made possible with a grant from the Claims Conference and supported by the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre. Metro International acquired world-wide rights to I Am Here and launched it at the European Film Market in February 2021.

Deliver Me

Paper Cranes Collective and Ctrl Alt Shift are proud to announce that their first collaboration, Deliver Me, has been selected to screen at this year’s Encounters South African International Documentary Film Festival where it will have its world premiere.  Directed by Jannous Aukema (Until The Silence Comes and The Jaguars Daughter), the film was conceived, filmed, and edited during South Africa’s Lockdown level 4. Made for under R20,000 and a four-man crew, the project is a unique take on the documentary storytelling format.  

“We are honoured and very pleased to have our project Deliver Me, screen at such a prestigious festival such as Encounters, a festival that plays such a key role not only in the continental festival calendar but also for documentaries in our local industry,” said Mitchell Harper, Ctrl Alt Shift producer of the film. “The film’s collaborative nature, along with its unusual approach to story-telling and financing will hopefully readjust many to how we approach not only filmmaking but help shift our understanding of what trials many go through in a bid to survive everyday life.” 

Co-produced by companies in Durban and Cape Town, Deliver Me is a 25-minute film, a poetic meditation on the migration of a Malawian man, who has come to South Africa to find a future for himself and his family. We follow Paul Mwasi through the evening streets, restaurants, and suburbs he navigates as an Uber delivery bike rider, during the coronavirus hard lockdown in Cape Town, South Africa. We come to see that he is a man driven by love for his family, whom he remains in contact with through his cellphone, his digital lifeline to those he has left behind. His work and the conditions he toils in are solitary. In many ways, Paulʼs journey as witnessed in the film is a signifier not only of the struggles of isolation in an unknown place but more generally of the lonesome months of a world pandemic.  

The film will be available to view free at Encounters on their digital platform from 10-20 June, and is available on the African continent throughout the festival period as part of their 24/7 section.