A young white farmer takes his gun and creeps round the outside of a homestead in the dark at the peak of President Robert Mugabe’s land seizures. A black Zimbabwean knows that freedom fighters spilled their blood for the land he only wants to live freely in.
How do you make a film about Zimbabwe’s controversial land reform programme without getting mired in years of frustration and anger – and stereotypes?
Los Angeles-based Brickyard Films has taken on this challenge with “The Zim”. The film’s writer-director Alexander Bedria says he hopes the project will bring healing to those on both sides of the racial divide.
Until now Western narratives of Zimbabwe’s land reform programme – which was launched in 2000 to international concern – have focused almost entirely on the dispossessed white farmers. There are around 4 000 of them, along with a black farm workforce that runs into tens of thousands, if not more.
Well-known Zimbabwe actor Tongayi Chirisa has played a huge part in shaping the 25-minute long film, both as a lead actor and as a producer and technical advisor, says Bedria.
He said: “[Chirisa’s] insights and experiences as a native Zimbabwean have been crucial in balancing the complex themes in our story as well as creating an overall sense of verisimilitude.”
The teaser – which has already gone viral – shows young white Zimbabwean farmer Daniel Silva and his pregnant wife battling to hang onto their farm. Like so many Zimbabwean farmers (some of whom bought their farms after independence), Silva struggles with what he feels is the injustice of what’s happening: Must he pay for the sins of the colonial land-grabbers? But there’s also another couple: black, articulate, also young. As he and his wife sit in the farmer’s kitchen Chirisa’s character (who is Silva’s friend and right-hand man in the film), offers a message of support saying he and his wife are “not going anywhere.”
Three years in the making, the film is now at the post-production stage, says Bedria. The company is fundraising on Kickstarter.
The story told here isn’t a dramatisation of a single family’s plight, says Bedria. Instead, it has elements of lots of different lived experiences and accounts: a kaleidoscope that so many Zimbabweans will recognise their own bits of.
Said Bedria: “I understand that the subject matter of our film is a deeply personal one to a great number of people. This is a responsibility that no one on our team takes lightly.”
UPDATE: Zimbabwe’s privately-owned Daily News has reported that ruling party youth leader Kudzai Chipanga has called for the seizure of all remaining white-owned farms.