Fresh from a successful opening weekend at the local box office, South African romantic comedy Fanie Fourie's Lobola has won the Audience Choice Award for Best Comedy at the 19th annual Sedona International Film Festival in the US.

Fanie

Described as a celebration of the best in independent film from around the world, the Sedona festival includes features, shorts, documentaries, animation and foreign films. This year 145 films were screened at the nine-day festival, held in Arizona from 23 February to 3 March.

"To win the Audience Award for Best Comedy against the level of competition at Sedona is a huge accolade for Fanie Fourie's Lobola," the film's producers, Lance Samuels and Kweku Mandela of Out of Africa Entertainment, said in a statement.

"This is a highly regarded festival, and the audience award is widely recognised as one of the most important awards of any festival, because the winning film is selected by the audience attending the festival, rather than by a few members of a festival jury. This is the second audience award that the film has won, following the Jozi Film Festival Audience Award in February."

Helen Kuun of Indigenous Film Distribution, which released the film in cinemas in South Africa this past weekend, says it's worth noting that Academy Award winner Tsotsi won the Audience Award at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, and the People's Choice Award at the 2005 Toronto International Film Festival in the same year.

"Another independent film that followed a similar course and was hugely popular with audiences was New Zealand's Whale Rider, which won the World Cinema Audience award at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival and continued to rake in Audience Choice Awards in the year that followed."

The award is a good sign of things to come, according to director Henk Pretorius, who co-wrote the script with Janine Eser. "Audience awards are among the best harbingers of a film's success, because they are decided on by regular cinemagoers and are an accurate reflection of the mood of the time and what people are enjoying and are interested in seeing on screen."

Fanie Fourie's Lobola, which was was filmed in Johannesburg and Pretoria, explores the culture clash that results when an Afrikaans guy and a Zulu girl fall in love and have to navigate their way through the complicated process of lobola.

The film stars talented newcomer Zethu Dlomo as Dinky and comedy favourite Eduan van Jaarsveldt as the affable Fanie. The supporting cast includes Jerry Mofokeng, Marga van Rooy, Chris Chameleon, Lillian Dube and Motlatsi Mafatshe. It's produced by Lance Samuels, Kweku Mandela and Janine Eser. The film is the first from Once Upon a Story, a script development initiative headed by veteran industry leader Paul Raleigh and Eser.