Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera is an international broadcaster that uniquely focuses on the documentary film genre.

The Encounters International Documentary Festival, to be held from 7 to 24 June 2012, is to host a pitching session for international news channel Al Jazeera English at which documentary filmmakers from South Africa and the rest of the continent can try to sell their film ideas.

The first of its kind, the event will be held over one day in Cape Town on Monday 11 June 2012. The organisers are looking for powerful films that tell engaging stories in a meaningful way.

Some 16 to 20 documentary filmmakers will get the chance to pitch to a panel of three commissioning editors from Al Jazeera, an international broadcaster that uniquely focuses on the documentary film genre. The panel will be made up of Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Jon Blair, senior Al Jazeera producer Dominique Young, and award-winning journalist and television producer Jeffreys Diarmuid.

Each filmmaker will get five minutes to pitch their documentary, and a further 10 minutes will for feedback and questions from the Al Jazeera panel. Facilities will be available for DVDs and presentations.

To apply for the pitch, send a one-page synopsis of the film, a one-page biography of the filmmaker and complete contact details to Lesedi Oluko Moche of Encounters at oluko@encounters.co.za on or before Sunday 27 May 2012. For more information, call +27 21 461 4686.

Al Jazeera English is an international news channel with over sixty bureaus on six continents. Since its launch in 2006 its global coverage, particularly of previously underreported regions, have seen it rapidly grow in reach and popularity.

The channel’s in-depth journalism has won it many awards: it is the current RTS News Channel of the Year and Freesat Best News Channel. In the last year Al Jazeera English also garnered the Columbia Journalism Award, a DuPont award, and a George Polk award.

Al Jazeera English is part of the Al Jazeera Network, a leading global media corporation established more than 15 years ago as the first independent news channel in the Arab world. Today it broadcasts news, documentary and sport programming on more than 20 channels. In addition to Al Jazeera English, these include Al Jazeera Arabic, Al Jazeera Balkans, Al Jazeera Sport, Al Jazeera Mubasher and Al Jazeera Documentary. The network also owns the Al Jazeera Media Training and Development Centre and the Al Jazeera Centre for Studies.

The commissioning panel

Jon Blair is a South Africa-born documentary filmmaker with more than 30 years of experience. His work has covered history, current affairs and popular culture, and earned him an Oscar, two Emmys, a British Academy Award and an International Documentary Association Distinguished Achievement Award, among others.

Blair fled South Africa in 1966 when he was drafted into the apartheid regime's army. In 1976 he returned illegally to make a documentary about the Soweto uprising with the ironic title There is No Crisis, the first film to cover the events of June 16 1976 and after for international television.

Today, Blair is an acting commissioning editor for major series, specials and discussion programmes at Al Jazeera.

His fellow panellist Young Dominique is also part of the Al Jazeera stable, as a senior producer based in the channel’s London bureau.

Young is responsible for commissioning films on African and Middle Eastern issues for the channel’s flagship observational documentary programme Witness, which broadcasts one 25-minute and one 45-minute documentary every week.

Witness films are character-led, first-person stories which provide context to daily news, showing how events affect the lives of ordinary people. They are mostly produced by local filmmakers, allowing the channel to showcase the work of established and emerging documentary talent from around the world.

The third panellist, Jeffreys Diarmuid, is an award-winning journalist and television producer, also with three decades of media experience, who is currently an editor and executive producer at Al Jazeera English.

Based in London, he is responsible for the channel’s award-winning documentary news and investigative programme People & Power, as well as a range of other documentaries across the Al Jazeera network.

Broadcast all year round with a new 30-minute edition every week, People and Power shows stories from all over the world, combining hard-hitting investigative television journalism with high-quality filmmaking. The programme has probed a range of globally significant stories, from political and corporate wrongdoing, human rights abuses and the origins of conflict to the plight of the world’s most vulnerable peoples.

In the last three years, Diarmuid’s work has won an Amnesty Award for Best Television Documentary 2010, the Rory Peck Best Features Award 2011, Best Documentary 2011 from the Human Trafficking Foundation. His programmes have twice, in 2010 and 2011, been commended in the Best Investigative Documentary category by the Association of International Broadcasters.

In May 2012, another of his recent series, Africa Investigates (in which African journalists target corruption and human rights abuses across their continent), won a One World Media Award.