Johannesburg - Africa and I, which follows the journey of adventurer Othmane Zolati as he makes his way through 24 countries over 30 000km, has won the Best First Feature Documentary at the Pan African Film Festival (PAFF) in the US.
The 30th anniversary of the PAFF, which was held in Los Angeles recently, is an official qualifying film festival for The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.
And Zolati’s feature documentary about his trip from Morocco to South Africa by bicycle, skateboard and on foot, continues to make waves internationally.
Africa and I was co-directed by Zolati and Chris Green, who worked on Chasing the Sun, which explored South Africa's rise to 2019 Rugby World Cup glory.
The documentary was also produced by Both Worlds Pictures, who previously worked on Puppet Nation ZA and Recipes for Love and Murder.
The film was also selected for the Portland Film Festival 2021, the Africa World Documentary Film Festival 2022 and the American Documentary and Animation Film Festival (Amdocs) 2022.
Africa and I tells the tale of Othmane’s life when he left everything behind him and spent four years walking, cycling and skateboarding his way through Africa, from Morocco to Cape Town.
On his journey, he saw that the continent he was warned about before he left home, the dark continent that the media shows us all, full of crime, disease and despair, was not the real story after all.
But Othmane found a continent that was vivid, varied and alive, full of beauty and surprises.
“After seven years of hard work, my African dream became reality,” Othmane said.
“It is a truly glorious moment for me and my entire team, and this accomplishment will be a lifelong motivation enabling me to fulfil my future achievements.”
This is Othmane’s first award in the film industry, something he is grateful for.
“Being here today, and after all that I have been through, is quite emotional for me,” he admitted.
“Reminiscing on how I started from scratch, as a 20-year-old boy from El Jadida, Morocco, with a mere $80 in his pocket hoping to have his dream come true, seven years later, sitting here today, with an award under my belt, is a motivation to keep me to continue and never, ever give up.”
Meanwhile, the documentary’s producer Thierry Cassuto added that he knew the film would go on to achieve success when he saw all the raw footage.
“From the first day Othmane showed me some of the 200 hundreds hours of beautiful footage he had filmed during his journey, making Africa & I has been an intense labour of love for the entire Both Worlds team and co-director Chris Green, who helped Othmane shape and tell his amazing story.
“We are grateful to the jury of the Pan African Film and Arts Festival for recognising this first film by a young director who will, I am sure, take us through many more amazing adventures in the future”.
The PAFF was established in 1992 by Hollywood veterans Danny Glover, the late Ja'Net DuBois and Ayuko Babu.
It is now world-renowned for showcasing an extensive array of black creative film works from across the globe, highlighting those that reinforce positive images and help to dismantle harmful beliefs and stereotypes.