Telling empowering stories, South Africans want to hear

Wednesday, 25 October 2023 20:13

Ladysmith Black Mambazo documentary heads for Oscars.

By Lehlohonolo Lehana.

Joseph Shabalala (centre) with the Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Image Supplied.

South African documentary, 'Music Is My Life- Joseph Shabalala And Ladysmith Black Mambazo', has been selected as South Africa's submission for the Best International Feature Film for next year's 96th Academy Awards (Oscars).

This is the first time a documentary has been selected since South Africa began submitting films for nomination in the International Feature Film category in the Annual Academy Awards in 1989.

Shining a spotlight on Ladysmith Mambazo's frontman, the legendary Joseph Shabalala, the film explores his rise to international fame with the group following their musical contributions to Paul Simon's award-winning album, Graceland, which went on to sell over 20 million copies.

Produced by the seasoned award-winning producer, Carolyn Carew, the feature documentary film was shot over a period of five years and Shabalala's creative process through the inspiring lense of his life.

"It is always a great and privileged opportunity to have a South African film represent the country at the global industry's foremost awards. The fact that this particular film tells the authentic South African story of the iconic Dr Shabalala, is even more special,"  National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) Acting CEO Thobela Mayinje said.

The NFVF said the film is an engaging tribute to South Africa's diverse culture, one of South Africa’s most distinct traditional musical forms, isicathamiya, and the man with a remarkable voice who made it globally relevant.    

"Since its release, the film has screened at a number of local and international film festivals and has garnered critical acclaim by audiences in countries like America, New Zealand, Australia and Spain, to name a few. Locally, Music is My Life screened at the Labia Cinema for over five days and on what would have been Dr Shabalala’s 83rd birthday, the public broadcaster’s SABC 1 channel aired the film, "the foundation said.

The decision to enter the film was made after a rigorous judging process by the South African Academy Awards Selection Committee.

This year's committee comprised a diverse group of seasoned industry professionals from various fields within the film industry, who were submitted to and approved by the Academy.

"Once the call for submissions closed on 10 August 2023, the committee evaluated a total of four film submissions from 18 to 22 September 2023, at Nu Metro cinemas in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban.

"The submissions were evaluated based on the Academy Awards' Best International Feature Film eligibility criteria. The NFVF appointed a reputable firm, SNG Grant Thornton to assess the overall judging process and ensure the integrity of the process.

"Once the committee had deliberated in its meeting held on 22 September 2023, the submission Music is My Life - Joseph Shabalala and Ladysmith Black Mambazo received the highest votes as the official selection once the scores were tallied and vetted by the auditors," the foundation said.

The official nominations for the 96th Annual Academy Awards will be announced on 23 January 2024.