Alpha Mthembu with his US Award smallTwenty-one year old film-maker Alpha Mthembu was in California last week where he received the award for ‘Best Emerging Film-maker’ at the Silicon Valley African Film Festival. The prestigious prize was won by him and Muchaneta Manyegavana for their final year film at Big Fish School of Digital Filmmaking ‘My Zulu Lessons’.

Mthembu’s short film traces the exploration of his Zulu heritage and his attempts to learn isiZulu after being abandoned by his mother and growing up in the Abraham Kriel Children’s home where only Afrikaans was spoken. Mthembu’s film is a humorous and engaging portrayal of his deep desire to learn more about his culture.

Mthembu and Manyegavana were awarded a two-year bursary to study at the Big Fish School of Digital Filmmaking in 2012. Big Fish is a multi-award winning film school which is helping transform the SA film industry through training talented youth from around the country who are being snapped up for jobs.

The Silicon Valley African Film Festival aims to promote the understanding and appreciation of Africa through moving images by viewing ‘Africa through African lenses’ and receives submissions from across the continent.

An overjoyed Mthembu said: “It was always my dream to go to film school, but I never imagined that my graduation film would get me to America or win an award.”

Big Fish CEO Dr Melanie Chait said: “We are very proud of Alpha and Muchaneta. This is the fifth year in succession that Big Fish students and graduates have won awards around the world for ‘best short film’, from Oberhausen to London, Sichuan to Toronto and from Lagos to California. Our fingers are now crossed for Lesego Soke, a first year student whose film Imbokodo (The Rock) has been nominated for the Gold Panda Award in China for best short documentary at the Sichuan TV festival.”