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Midlands film-maker on roll with Buddha in Africa

After bagging the award for Best SA Documentary for her film Buddha in Africa, at the Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) awards ceremony last month, Midlands based film-maker Nicole Schafer can dream of the Oscars.

Significantly for this first-time feature film-maker, DIFF is included as a Documentary Feature Qualifying Festival by the Academy of Motion Picture, Arts and Sciences. This means that Buddha in Africa, automatically qualifies for consideration for an Oscar nomination.

First time film-maker Nicole Schafer.

The 90-minute documentary about a Malawian teenager caught between his African roots and Chinese upbringing had its world premiere at the HotDocs Documentary film festival in Canada in April, and opened the Encounters Documentary Festival in Cape Town and Johannesburg in June where it received a Backsberg Encounters Audience Award. It was also in the official selection at this year’s Sydney International Film Festival in June, and has a host of other festivals lined-up including the Hilton Arts Festival next month.


“The journey of making and completing a documentary can be a long and challenging process and it is very meaningful to have this affirmation and recognition here at home at the Durban International Film Festival, where we first pitched the project several years ago,” says Nicole.

In 2011, she pitched the project at the Durban FilmMart, the industry development programme of the Durban Film Office and the DIFF. Here she won the International Documentary Festival of Amsterdam award for the Most Promising Documentary, and travelled to IDFA in 2012 where she was able to further develop the project.

In Buddha in Africa, a Malawian teenager is caught between his African roots and Chinese upbringing.

“As Executive Producer I have watched this extraordinary story unfold over the past 7 years, a story that opens up discussions about contemporary Africa and the implications it holds for the young Africans who are caught in the clash between African and Chinese cultures. We are proud to be the broadcast partner across the continent on our documentary film strand AfriDocs,” says Don Edkins of AfriDocs.

Buddha in Africa, which has had support of the KwaZulu-Natal Film Commission and other international funders has already been sold to several international territories. Paris based documentary sales company CAT & Docs is representing the film internationally.

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