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"Buddha In Africa" (Malawian Boy Raised In Chinese Orphanage & Trained In Martial Arts) Gets Funding Boost

by Tambay A. Obenson
March 22, 2012 4:43 PM
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malawi china

Here's an update on another project, still in the financing stage, that I've been tracking since first learning about it earlier this year;

Last I wrote about it, Chicken & Egg Pictures - the award-winning hybrid film fund and non-profit production company dedicated to supporting women filmmakers - selected it as one of a handful of 2012 Open Call grant recipients.

It's titled Buddha of Africa (a working title), and it's a South Africa/Malawi production (currently in development), from director Nicole Schafer.

Its synopsis reads as follows:

Against the backdrop of China’s growing influence on the African continent, Buddha of Africa tells the intimate story of a Malawian orphan growing up in a Chinese Buddhist Orphanage in Malawi. He learns Mandarin, practices Buddhism and becomes a young master of the ancient art of Shaolin Kung Fu. His life is transformed. But the surrounding community is suspicious of this upbringing and this new form of foreign “aid” and they question to what extent he’ll still be Malawian when he’s grown up one day.

It was announced today that the film got another funding boost, this time as one of 20 projects (short-listed from 401 from 40 countries) selected to receive financing from the Amsterdam-based IDFA €212,000 (close to $300,000) Jan Vrijman Fund.

I don't have any info on how far along in the funding process the project is, but I'm most certainly intrigued by it for what should be obvious reasons. Matters of Chinese influence in (or occupation of, depending on your POV) the African continent are certainly still very topical, and we've covered several films (documentaries and feature fictional narratives) that have tackled th subject in some form.

And this story does reflect reality; to wit, the image (courtesy of the New York Times) at the top of this post is of a Malawian student practicing a Chinese form of exercise and meditation called Qigong. He's one of many orphaned children from Malawi trained to speak Mandarin at a Buddhist orphanage in the country, as well as perform dance and kung-fu.

The project is on my watch list, so any new developments will be reported here.

Stay tuned...

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  • Disturbing | May 4, 2012 2:50 AMReply

    I don't know how many of these orphanages exist- but the one I've heard about the children are not taught the local language or English. Only Mandarin. No books, no toys. I think when they are adults they will only be able to work for a Chinese boss. I also heard they are not all necessarily orphans.

  • Alex Gittens | March 22, 2012 5:09 PMReply

    What an interesting situation to be in! I'm interested to know exactly what the people are complaining about --- is it that the kid was raised Buddhist instead of Christian? I hope the documentary gets into all the fascinating social implications.

  • FilmGuy | March 22, 2012 11:11 PM

    It boils down to how much the Chinese are influencing Malawian identity with their increasing presence there and in the rest of Africa. The people are worried that the Chinese are carrying out a type of second colonization. Seeing that the European version failed, the people simply have apprehension about losing parts of their culture...again. Perhaps just fears though, as it seems that an orphan raised in the discipline of Kung Fu and fluent in Mandarin will actually be at an advantage to lead his people with foreign relations with China in the future, but that could be thinking too far ahead.

  • AccidentalVisitor | March 22, 2012 9:03 PM

    Don't think its a documentary. It will be a feature film which is what makes it even more intriguing to me if it all goes through.

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