In 2009, big news emerged from Mulanje Mountain; a Brazilian tourist, Gabriel Buchmann, had gone missing.
A search party was deployed and Buchmann was found dead 19 days later.
He was on the Africa leg of his trip across the world that saw him visiting Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and Malawi where he met his fate.
In Malawi in particular, the tourist visited Lilongwe and Mzuzu before travelling down south from Nkhata Bay on MV Ilala and then to Mulanje Mountain.
Throughout his trip, Buchmann kept records of where he had visited and those he met and Malawi was the 38th country he visited in his planned one-year trip across the world.
Now, nine years later, his longtime friend and a filmmaker, Filipe Babosa has chronicled the life of Buchmann in a film, Gabriel And The Mountain, with his very last days taking the centre stage.
“Gabriel was a friend of mine I knew since I was seven years old and we lost touch around 2000 when I went to the US to study film. The time I got back in Brazil is the time he was leaving for his one-year trip around the world, before going back to school for his Phd in public policy. The film depicts the last 70 days of Gabriel in four countries in Africa; Kenya, Tanzania Zambia and Malawi his final destination.
“What motivated me was the desire to meet the last people during the end of his journey. So, I did two very long research trips around the seven countries he visited in Africa but the film concentrates on the last four. He also visited Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi and I was being guided by the places where I found interesting characters that would help me tell his story,” said Babosa in an interview.
Buchmann’s body was found with a camera, making it easy and a usual entry point for Babosa to track down the places the tourist visited as well as the people he met.
“I had access to the photographs, then e-mails he sent to his family and friends, vividly describing his journey and the people he had met who gave him shelter and became friends with and finally, the notebook which contained names and numbers most of which were not working anymore but helped me in some instances. I found some characters through Facebook,” stated Babosa.
The film is largely acted by people whom he met along the way, making it faithful to the truth, even though it is staged. It also features the real girlfriend who visited him in Zambia and Tanzania.
In Malawi, the film was shot in Lilongwe at the house of Luke Mpata, a truck driver who met Buchmann at Mchinji border.
“Then we went to Mount Mulanje where he disappeared and shooting took place in 2016. The film depicts someone who is brave, bold enough to travel in a very extraordinary way. These people who met him, sheltered and fed Gabriel. These are wonderful people, which is different from what most people believe of this part of the world.
“The first two characters who appear in the film are the real people who found his body; Luka White and Nyiwove. Then there’s Luis Gadson who was his guide. Gabriel let go of Luis and proceeded to Sapitwa alone. On his way down, there was a lot of fog and was found dead 19 days later by Luka White and Nyiwove,” narrates the filmmaker.
With the post production done in France, the film’s first screening was held at the famous Cannes Film Festival.
“It received two big awards and has been screened several times there, released in over 10 countries in the world, including Brazil and screened at over 40 international film festivals. Right now, I am bringing it to the communities,” states Babosa.
So far, there was a planned screening of the film at Likhubula in Mulanje on Tuesday and Wednesday in Blantyre, before finishing the tour in Lilongwe.
Working with the Brazilian Embassy, the Lilongwe screening took place at the Golden Peacock Hotel Movie Theatre on Thursday afternoon.
Gabriel And The Mountain is a 131 minutes film done in English, Portuguese, Swahili, Chichewa and French, with English subtitles.