Buddha in Africa

  • Nicole Schafer
  • South Africa, Sweden
  • 2019
  • 93 min
  • Dutch Premiere
  • Best of Fests

African orphans get a strict Buddhist education at a Chinese boarding school in Malawi. They learn Kung Fu and Mandarin, and how to use chopsticks to eat their maize.

Fifteen-year-old Enock, a talented Kung Fu performer who was once the school’s star student, now feels caught between two worlds. In his heart he wants to return to the village where his grandmother and aunts live, but nowadays he speaks better Mandarin than his own mother tongue. He’s got the opportunity to continue his studies in Taiwan, paid for by the charitable organization financing the boarding school. It’s tempting because a solid Chinese education could lead to a good job, there or in Africa—but would it mean betraying his African heart?

Enock and his schoolmates are filmed without restriction during classes, meals and Buddhist ceremonies. These scenes of discipline and formality are interspersed with interviews and conversations with school staff. This fascinating and sometimes unsettling film leaves us with an uneasy feeling. The new developments in our globalized world are bursting with symbolism, and powerfully recall the type of moral instruction found at the Christian mission schools of yesteryear.


  • 93 min
  • color
  • DCP
  • Spoken languages: Mandarin, Chichewa, English
  • Subtitles in: English
Nicole Schafer
Nicole Schafer for Thinking Strings Media
Executive producer
Don Edkins
Momento Film
Nicole Schafer

IDFA history

Dutch Premiere
Best of Fests
Supported with €40000 for Europe: International Co-production
Supported with €17000 for Classic: Production & postproduction
Supported with €5000 for Classic: Development

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IDFA history

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