SVAFF Awards

Filmmaker awards

2011 SVAFF Africa Reel Award Winner

Zola Maseko, Producer & Director (South Africa)

Zola Maseko is a South African filmmaker who was born in exile in 1967. He was educated at Waterford / Kamhlaba College in Swaziland and the Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College in Tanzania. In 1987, he joined Umkhonto We Sizwe the armed wing of the African National Congress. He later headed to the UK where he graduated from the National Film and Television School in Beaconsfield. Maseko’s first film was the documentary Dear Sunshine, released in 1992. In 1993 he produced and edited Scenes From Exile, four short films about his life in exile.

In 1994 he returned to South Africa to write and directed his first fiction film The Foreigner a hard-hitting film about xenophobia. The film went on to win several international awards.

In 1998 he directed a documentary The Life and Times of Sara Baartman which was a co-production between French 3 and South African Broadcast Corporation (SABC) 2. He was honored as the most promising South African Director when he won Best Newcomer Award at Sithengi (South African Film and TV Market) in Cape Town that same year. The documentary also won the award for Best Documentary. Maseko also won Best Documentary at the African Milano Film Festival the following year. 2002 was a busy year for Maseko in which he completed two documentaries The Return of Sarah Bartman and Children of the Revolution. He also wrote and directed A Drink in the Passage, which won the Special Jury Award at the Pan African Film Festival FESPACO in Burkino Faso.
A three part TV series he wrote titled, Homecoming was produced and screened on SABC in 2003. It traces the fates of three former freedom fighters trying to re-establish themselves in the new South Africa after years in exile. His first feature film Drum, starring Hollywood actor Taye Diggs was released in 2004. Set in 1950s Johannesburg, the film focuses on Henry Nxumalo, a journalist fighting apartheid. Drum received the top prize - the Golden Stallion of Yennenga and a $20,000.00 cash prize at Africa’s premiere film festival FESPACO in 2005, the first South African to do such.

He’s latest film a feature length documentary titled The Manuscripts of Timbuktu premiered at FESPACO in March 2009 and won the top prize. About Zola’s Manuscripts of Timbuktu, Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. wrote:
“Every student and every scholar should be required to watch this riveting film about the lost manuscripts and libraries of Timbuktu. Never has the story of the origins and history--the decline and fall and resurrection--of this black center of learning and intellect been told in more compelling fashion than in this marvelous documentary. I am assigning it to both my undergraduate and graduate courses at Harvard, and hope that all scholars of African and African American Studies will do the same. Truth be told, all students in high school and college throughout the world should be required to see this film, and learn of the history of our intellectual forebears whose very existence Europe and the West have, until recently, systematically denied. This film is a triumph!”

Maseko is currently producing a documentary and also financing his next feature film The Whale Caller. He lives with his son in Johannesburg and has a production company Black Roots Pictures.