•From left: Ikenna Ezenyirioha, Festival Manager; Afie Braimoh, Project Director; South African actress and AFRIFF Goodwill Ambassador, Xilole Tshabalala and Keith Shiri, Artistic Director, at the Tsogo Sun Elengani Hotel forDurban International Film Festival.
As the world eagerly awaits November 9 to16 when the much-publicised 4th edition of the Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF) will come up, one remarkable move by the organisers to create a sense of harmony among filmmakers in the continent is the endorsement of notable South African actress, Xilole Tshabalala, as Goodwill Ambassador of the festival.
Tshabalala’s deal with AFRIFF was sealed at the ongoing Durban International Film Festival (DIFF), where she held talks with the AFRIFF team led by its artistic director, Keith Shiri, who flew into Durban from London.
The actress, whose short film, Through Her Eyes, is screening at DIFF, was apparently excited to join the team, having been eager to lend her voice to projects that promote Africa.
“I’m very excited as an artiste and as a female filmmaker. Also, as an African, I am so happy about anything that brings Africa together and puts us on the world map. I’m just overwhelmed with joy for being a part of the AFRIFF team,” she said to reporters at the festival.
Consequently, the star of Mnet’s Jacobs Cross and SABC1’s soap, Generation, joins Nollywood actress, Rita Dominic, and American star, Lynn Withfield, who have both been lifting the banners of AFIFF, since their appointment as the festival’s ambassadors last year.
Interestingly, Tshabalala resumed duty immediately, talking to people at the ongoing DIFF about the qualities that differentiate AFRIFF from other festivals.
The actress, who has already marked the festival date in her diary, further added that it would be her second time in Nigeria, when she lands on November 8, a day to the festival’s opening ceremony.
AFRIFF holds at the popular Tinapa Business Resort in Calabar, Cross River State. The event will feature daily film screenings, workshops, master classes, exhibitions, film premieres, glamorous opening and closing ceremonies. It will round off with an award night that will celebrate winning film entries as well as their cast and crew.
Tshabalala’s Through Her Eyes, a ‘Man’s World’-themed film will also be showing at the festival.
Although her first stint with Nigeria was in Abuja, she cannot wait to witness Calabar, a city she learnt is the tourism hub of Nigeria.
“From my experience of Abuja, I love the country and the people. I also love the fact that there are so many people in one place-so many Africans that we can just share our stories with. I love Nigeria from my experience of Abuja and I’m sure Calabar holds greater promises for me.
“When Chioma Ude, the founder of AFRIFF, called me, I had no choice but to jump at the offer-perhaps, it is also because it’s woman power.
“Yes, the festival is being run by an amazing woman. So, I just feel excited about an opportunity for me to share my experience and belief about the beauty of Africa. More importantly, I am excited because it will also offer the opportunity to show the world that we too can run a film festival without the West coming in,” she said.
Born in Vrede in the Free State, the 37-year-old actress is best known for her role as Julia Motene in Generation. She also played alongside her mentor, Thembi Mtshali, in The Crucible at the Market Theatre.
She enrolled at the National School of the Arts and graduated with the honour of best overall performer. She has worked on other television productions, including Justice for All, Scoop Schoombie, Isidingo, Secret in my Bosom and Soul City, among others.
Xolile, as she is simply called, has received a number of acting awards, including Duku Duku Viewers Choice award( 2003) and People Magazine Crystal Award for Best Soap Actress (2004), among others.
She took a break from acting in 2005 to attend the New York Film School, honing her skill as a film producer and director.
She played the role of Sister Zama in the seventh season of the SABC1 drama series, Soul City (in 2006) and played a guest role in the fifth season of the American drama series, NCIS, in 2007.
She starred as Mandi Mbalula, Mvelo’s (Yonda Thomas) father’s calculating accountant and second-in-command at Nobela Holdings in the SABC1 drama series, Fallen, in 2011.
She also starred as TT’s gorgeous wife Gugu, an ambitious player development executive who gives the casino’s high rollers whatever they want, but is unable to give TT the one thing he wants- a child- in the SABC3 drama, series High Rollers, in 2013.
Xilole is also popular for her campaign about naturalness, leading that line with braids and Afro-hairstyles alone.