Jambo Africa Online’s Publisher, SAUL MOLOBI, previews the annual Nelson Mandela Children’s Festival and profiles the power couple behind the event which is to the film industry what Caiphus Semenya & Letta Mbulu are to the music industry; Walter & Albertina Sisulu are to politics; and what Archbishop Desmond & Leah Tutu are social justice to just name a few…

This year’s instalment of the annual festival will take place from 28 July-5 August 2023. It will consist of a range of screenings, events and masterclasses and will be hosted in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban. Artistically stimulating and thought-provoking the Nelson Mandela Children’s Film Festival (NMCFF) programme of films and discussions takes on bold narratives from across the world. These events provide a unique opportunity for young people to gain an insight into global film practices. Father of our Nation, uTata Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, passionately supported children and youth nurturing them as the leaders of tomorrow. He stated on 3 June 1995: “Our children are the rock on which our future will be built, our greatest asset as a nation. They will be the leaders of our country, the creators of our national wealth who care for and protect our people”. 

“The festival continues to celebrate and commemorate Nelson Mandela‘s legacy using film as a tool to inform and inspire the next generation,” says Firdoze Bulbulia, veteran filmmaker, co-founder of the festival and co-director of the festival’s producing company, Moments Entertainment.

NMCFF was founded in 2018 and has become an important space for introducing young audiences to films and industry practitioners from across the world. The festival reaches around 5000 children annually and shows films both in venues in Johannesburg and Durban and online. “We show films from partners across the world and have included children’s content not only from South Africa but also from such countries as Egypt, Lithuania, Saudi Arabia, Sweden and Tunisia,” says Faith Isiakpere, with the similar illustrious credentials as Firdoze.

The festival includes masterclasses and pitching sessions with a focus on animation, gaming, production and filmmaking. “We work in partnership with a number of organisations and festivals both in South African and across the world to ensure that we undertake a collaborative approach when positioning and promoting children’s content,” Firdoze reinforced Faith’s assertion. 

Examples of their partners include the Durban International Film Festival (South Africa); CIFEJ, an NGO active as the only global network of media professionals working for children and young people; The Danish Film Institute, The Prix Jeunesse International, in Germany; ComKidsin Brazil and m:brane in Sweden. “This year we will include the participation of the Jordanian and Palestinian embassies,” chips in Faith. “We’re privileged to bring onboard the University of the Witwatersrand’s School of the Arts School with specific participation from the film & television school and the  art department.”

And they plan to extend their university reach. “We will also invite University of Johannesburg (UJ), University of Pretoria, University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, University of Cape Town, University of the Western Cape and Stellenbosch,” says Firdoze matter-of-factly.

In keeping with Tata Madiba’s Legacy, they have planned to recognise the “Champions of Children” – those who worked tirelessly to guide and empower children. “To realise this, we have created the NMCFF Lifetime Achievement Awards to honour those who have undertaken this mammoth task,” says Faith with a tinge of satisfaction. “In 2018 we honoured Dr. Soheir Abdel Kadr from Egypt and Joan Ganz-Cooney, the founder of Sesame Street (USA). We also recognised all our partners for the sterling work they are doing with children in their respective countries and regions. In 2022 we honoured Elizabeth Castle and Benjy Francis who are stalwarts in the children’s sector in South Africa and have been working with the Children and Broadcasting Foundation for Africa (CBFA) since its inception in 1995.”

The last two recipients have been involved in the process of drawing-up “The South African Children’s Charter”, which ultimately became part of The Bill of Rights in the post-apartheid South African Constitution; The World Summits on Media for Children since 1996 and the Africa Charter on Children’s Broadcasting, which has been adopted by all Commonwealth countries and forms part of the guidelines for children’s media content for most countries.

This year’s the Lifetime Achievement Awards will honour Ms. Jacqui Hlongwane (Programme Manager, SABC) for her tireless efforts in ensuring quality content for South African children, and the Japan Prize as an organisation that has championed children’s productions. 

Although the programme for this year, which is outline at the bottom of this article, is as riveting and exciting as always, the couple is aiming very high. “We are now appealing to conscientious corporates, public and civil institutions to support of us initiative in screening the ground-breaking film, “Farha”, to our audiences in South Africa in covering the travel and accommodation costs for bringing the film director, Darin J. Sallam, and producers Ayah Jardaneh and Deema Azar.

Farha is a coming-of-age drama set in 1948 during the Nakba in Palestine when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were exiled from their homes under Zionist apartheid. The film is based on a true story and follows a 14-year-old girl with dreams of her education, but her circumstances mean she has to fight for her survival. The film is a bold directorial debut from Darin J. Sallam and marks the first-time this important story is brought to the screen. 

“We feel that showing this film and having the film team present is a great opportunity for young people in South Africa to learn about the system of apartheid in Palestine, the history of the Nakba and challenges around censorship,” asserts Firdoze. And Faith added: “The FARHA team will be available for a Q&A session, masterclasses and workshops with professionals and young people.”

Who are in these trailblazing couple driving the NMCFF?

Firdoze Bulbulia

Firdoze Bulbulia is a luminary in the fields of film production, directing, and training. With a rich educational background that includes an MA in African Studies from Ohio University, USA, a BA in Dramatic Arts Honours from WITS University, South Africa, and a Licentiate in Drama from Trinity College, UK, she is currently pursuing a PhD in Art, Design & Architecture.

Firdoze is renowned for her award-winning work across feature films, documentaries, animations, and theatre. She is also the host of the F-Show an online platform for discussing contemporary and political topics with distinguished guests from across the globe. You can see the first full episode here.

As the chairperson of The Children and Broadcasting Foundation for Africa (CBFA), she hosted the 5th World Summit on Media for Children in 2007 and has produced numerous multimedia productions for radio and television. Firdoze’s efforts extend beyond production; she is deeply committed to creating media solutions that address the needs of women and children specifically.

Firdoze served two mandates as President of the International Centre of Films for Children and Young People – CIFEJ, and she co-founded Africa’s Best Channel (ABC), a children and youth television channel in Nigeria, and the African Animation Studio (AAS), focusing on Pan-African Animations.

Her impressive portfolio includes six feature films, various documentaries, including a Legacy Feature Documentary on Former President Nelson Mandela titled “Mandela’s Africa,” and a feature-length documentary “A Song for Refugees” that was showcased at Pavilion Afriques at the Cannes Film Festival 2023.

In addition to her production work, Firdoze is the Festival Director of The Nelson Mandela Children’s Film Festival and was the former Festival Director of the Zanzibar International Film Festival (2019). As an executive member of the Pan-African Film Consortium (AFC), she continues to make her mark globally, all while maintaining strong Pan-African roots.

Firdoze Bulbulia’s expansive career demonstrates her dedication and exceptional talent, making her a transformative force in the world of film and media.

Faith Isiakpere

Faith Isiakpere, is life member of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA). A distinguished director and experienced broadcaster, he brings a wealth of international experience to the film and media industry. A BA graduate in Film & Television Production from West Surrey College of Art and Design, UK, Faith has worked with numerous prominent broadcasters, including Thames TV, Channel 4, Central TV, and even as a Senior Producer for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

Faith’s notable achievements include a significant series of documentaries, the pinnacle of which is a six-part special titled ‘Black Britain.’ This series provides a comprehensive look at the Black immigrant population in the UK.

Faith’s vast portfolio includes an array of documentaries, dramas, and music videos, as well as a book on the UK Band UB40. His short film on Miriam Makeba is frequently showcased on SABC, demonstrating his longstanding influence in the industry. His collaborations include working with prominent figures such as Stevie Wonder, Hugh Masekela, Miriam Makeba, President Mandela, and the late Helen Joseph.

In addition to his production work, Faith has held board positions at the Newtown Film & Television School and the Children & Broadcasting Foundation for Africa. He also served as a member of the South African Music Promoters Association. At the Minaj Group, Faith held the position of Director of Programmes/Head of Content, overseeing a variety of platforms such as Terrestrial Television, Satellite Network, a radio station, and a Cable Television Network.

Respected for his expertise and guidance, Faith is often sought out by novice African broadcasters requiring mentorship in this specialized field. His production and direction work extends to several feature films and documentaries. Currently, he holds the position of Director at Moments Entertainment and is a co-founder of African Animation Studio (AAS).

Faith Isiakpere’s broad skill set and remarkable contributions truly set him apart as a leading figure in film and media production.



Breakfast on 28 July with a select group for the NMCFF2023Lifetime Achievement Awards

29-31 July: Screenings and workshops in Gauteng

1-2 August: Screenings and workshops in KZN

2-4 August: Screenings and workshops in Western Cape

To contact the organisers, please send an email to moments@icon.za