Buddha in Africa
Impact | Insights
This documentary takes us to southeastern Africa, where orphans stand midway between two cultures and a young man fights to discover his identity. In Malawi, a Chinese nonprofit has established a Buddhist missionary shelter for boys; the kids receive loving care, learn Mandarin, and are inculcated with foreign values. Director Nicole Schafer focuses on Enock Bello, a young man with a serious choice ahead of him: facing graduation and adulthood, he must decide whether to remain in Malawi among his native people or take on post-secondary life in Taiwan. The movie has a gentle tone, but it’s no less moving for that; it grows in power as Enock’s decision approaches, with suspense, compassion, and confusion all tied together.
With this film, Schafer hits on topical, touchy subjects - religion, cultural conflict, Chinese expansionism in Africa, and more. It’s dangerous ground for a filmmaker to tread, but she works her way through it with compassion as her guiding light. Open to the beauty of Buddhism, the dangers of colonialism, the risks of freedom, and, above all, the preciousness of an individual soul, the director crafts a poignant, beautiful work.