“To respect music, you respect your life,” said Joseph Shabalala, founder and leader of South Africa’s acclaimed band, Ladysmith Black Mambazo. His message is repeated in a biopic, Music is My Life, a film that has been submitted for consideration to compete in the International Feature Film category for the 96th annual Academy Awards.
In the 34 years since South Africa has been submitting films for this category, formerly known as Best Foreign Language Film, only twice has a film been nominated and once has the nomination taken the Oscar.
Seventeen years after that one-time win, Tsotsi directed by Gavin Hood, the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) hopes this year’s submission will be as successful.
Music is My Life follows the senior Shabalala from his early years in rural South Africa to the apex of Shabalala’s international success to his passing in 2020, at the age of 79.
Through clips, guest cameos of colleagues and celebrities, Shabalala’s story is told. Especially notable is the focus on Isicathamiya music, which defines Ladysmith Black Mambazo as well as South Africa.
The film was produced by veteran film producer, Carolyn Carew and directed by Mpumi “Supa” Mbele. The documentary was shot over a period of five years.
The official nominations for the 96th Annual Academy Awards will be announced on 23 January 2024.