If you were looking for evidence of Chinese designs on building a modern-day empire, you would have to look no further than Africa: a vast continent whose natural resources – and government borrowing sprees – have helped fuel the engine of China’s economic growth. So goes the conventional logic, at least; yet the reality of Chinese investment and influence on the continent is more complex, as evidenced by South African director Nicole Schafer’s Buddha in Africa, a years-long study of one teenager growing up in a Chinese Buddhist orphanage in Malawi.
Schafer’s documentary, which screened at IDFA, is a sensitive portrayal of a young man torn between the kung-fu dreams and Confucian doctrine of his Buddhist upbringing, and a Malawian culture whose powerful roots might ultimately be holding him back. Through the lens of one teenager’s journey, “Buddha in Africa” paints a complicated portrait of what’s been described as the latest chapter in Africa’s long struggle against colonization.
“I see Enock’s dilemma very much represents the dilemma around the future development of the African continent, especially within a globalized context. It’s not only about China and Africa, it’s also about Africa’s relations with other foreign nations, including the former colonizers. I suppose it’s just this idea that the key to the future of the continent’s development is always held by outsiders, and that in order to succeed, we always have to adapt to foreign value systems and policies. I think Enock’s story challenges this idea in very refreshing ways”, Schafer says.
Christopher Vourlias, Variety
Language: English, Chichewa, Mandarin
Name in Original Language: Buddha in Africa
Director: Nicole Schafer
Country: South Africa, Sweden
Length: 90 min
Cinematography: Nicole Schafer
Editing: Bernhard Winkler, Mary Stephen, Catherine Meyburgh, Nicole Schafer
Production: Thinking String Media, Momento Film
Cinema Artis, hall 1: Friday, 31.01 - 17:00
Tartu Elektriteater: Friday, 31.01 - 18:30
Cinema Artis, hall 1 · Estonia pst 9