The meaning of the buffalo

Sundance Film Festival, MOMA, Hot docs, Berlinale,
London, Beeld voor Beeld
 In the top 10 ‘must sees’ of 2004 Sundance Film Festival, 
New York Times critics pick 2004
 Durga Shakti Films / Mafisa / First Hand Films

2004 South Africa
61 min
Director & Cinamatography: Karin Slater

In the remote village of Lekhopung, near the northern 
border of South Africa, the Balete people cannot 
remember exactly why they are so inextricably linked 
to their ancestral totem animal, the buffalo. As a 
wildlife filmmaker, Karin has a strong and almost fatal buffalo past, as ten years earlier she had been involved in an accident while filming them. Now she has been mysteriously drawn to this dusty, drought ridden land to encounter the buffalo once again. At first the villagers are reticent; stupefied but curious as to why a white woman is so insistent on knowing the “secret” legends, folklore, and praise poetry of their totem. Frustrated by a missing book, a sick chief, evasive youths and reluctant elders, Karin persists, and enlists the help of the local shopkeeper, the Buffalo Soldier. They launch a competition that inspires the community to uncover its own identity. Gently humorous and wonderfully poignant, this elegantly shot film observes the Balete reclaim the rich heritage, beliefs and 
stories of their forefathers. At the same time it reveals that Karin’s personal relationship with the buffalo is deeper than she suspected.

30 years of documentary filmmaking and cinematography