Chigwandali heads to Tribeca

A documentary about a local musician with albinism, Lazarus Chigwandali will be premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City.

The story of Lazarus who goes around town performing with his handmade banjo on the dusty streets of Lilongwe while narrating the plight of people with albinism who are being killed and abducted for their body parts in Malawi, will be shown to the world at the festival, which runs from April 24 to May 5.

Set for the big stage: Lazarus

In an interview, Chigwandali said the documentary brings his life and those of about 15 000 people with albinism in Malawi to the international stage.

“The documentary was shot in Malawi in April last year. It’s talking about my story from the time I was a young boy to a musician performing on the streets of Lilongwe. And [about being] a person with albinism in Malawi, where we are being killed for our body parts. The documentary captures my two songs,” he said.

Chigwandali feels the documentary marks a breakthrough in his music career.

“My music talks about us [people with albinism] while also detailing about the path I have chosen; speak on behalf of others like me. My dream is to establish an organisation aimed at uplifting the lives of people with albinism in Malawi,” he said.

Chigwandali has found himself at one of the biggest film festivals in the world courtesy of Johan Hugo, a Swedish DJ and producer, who together with Malawi’s Esau Mwamwaya forms the duo, The Very Best.

According to Hugo, he knew Chigwandali through a video clip he got from a friend.

“My friend Sphiwe Zulu showed me a video clip of Lazarus a few years ago. I really liked his music and when I decided to go to Malawi to try to make an album with him, I knew that the story about people with albinism needed to be heard by the world so I asked my film maker friends David Darg and Bryn Mooser from Ryot Films to make a film,” he said.

Hugo says the film tells Lazarus’ story as a street musician, a father, a husband and a person with albinism in Malawi “ all the way to playing at Lake of Stars 2018.”

He says the main goal for the film is to raise awareness about the plight of people with albinism in Malawi.

“No one can use albinism body parts to get rich or win elections, it’s all a lie, and these killings need to stop now. We want the whole world to see what’s going on,” Hugo adds.

The Tribeca Film Festival showcases a diverse selection of independent films and since its inauguration in 2002 has become a recognised outlet for independent filmmakers in all genres to release their work to a broad audience. n

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