Africa and I documentary an unrivalled glimpse into life on the continent
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Johannesburg - When Othmane Zolati left his home in Morocco for the very first time to make a nearly four-year journey to Cape Town, he was shocked at what he witnessed during his trek through Africa.
“I saw that the continent I was warned about before I left home, the ‘dark continent’,'’ he explained. “I found a continent that was vivid, varied and alive, full of beauty, hospitality and surprises. All this was with an African eye, which we rarely see.”
Zolati, who is the star, director, cameraperson and executive producer of Africa and I, a documentary which is set to air on Showmax this week, left his north-western African home with just $80 (about R1 172), a small backpack, and a borrowed, cheap pocket camera.
The 90-minute documentary which follows Zolati’s escapades, is the story of how he walked, hitch-hiked, cycled and skateboarded over 30 000 km through 24 countries.
“I wanted to show to the world that everything is possible to achieve,” he told the Saturday Star this week.
He explained that he arrived in South Africa after four years of sheer perseverance, patience and persistence.
“No matter how hard it is, you have to keep pushing till the end; that is the lesson I want everyone to get inspired by from this documentary,” he said.
The documentary’s main man also used the hundreds of hours of footage he taught himself to shoot along the way.
But in order to put Africa and I together, Zolati collaborated with a team of award-winning South African creatives he met at the end of his trip.
This includes co-director Chris Green, who wrote and produced the 2021 South African Film and Television Award [SAFTA] winner Chasing the Sun and co-showrunner of the two-time International Emmy-nominated Master Chef South Africa.
He also worked with Both Worlds, the production company behind the two-time International Emmy-nominated Puppet Nation ZA; and composer Daniel Eppel and editor Kirsten de Magalhaes, both SAFTA winners.
Zolati said that while the documentary was his story, he realised early in his journey that he required additional expertise.
“I was too attached to many stories that probably won’t make sense to be in the documentary, and having 220 hours of footage, it wasn’t easy to decide what to cut and what to put on the 90 minutes, and that’s why I had to step back and let the team decide.”
He said that the assembly of skilled professionals worked together so well to create Africa and I that it exceeded Zolati’s expectations.
“Sometimes I have to pinch myself to realise that this is really happening, that I’m surrounded by some of the best and most awarded directors, producers, storytellers and sound engineers – that my own documentary is ready for release.”
Apart from the expertise of the team that put the documentary together, Zolati believes that Africa and I is unlike anything of its kind because it offers a brand new perspective about life on the continent.
“Africa and I is a film about seeing things with fresh eyes, throwing away preconceptions, and making the most of what you have, where you are. It’s a documentary about a young man, without any plan, equipment, sponsors, or a film crew, that shows us a different version of Africa, through his African eyes.”
He said the soundtrack for the documentary also offers a musical journey too, combining contemporary and traditional music to create a stunning aural landscape.
“We spent months making the music from scratch; each country with its own beats.”
Zolati believes that the ultimate theme of Africa and I is the endurance of the human spirit. “Chase your dream till the end, no matter how hard it is, and no matter how bad they will tell you it’s going to be,” he said.
“Giving up is not an option.”
Africa and I will be available on Showmax from August 5.