A farmer struggles to protect his home and loved ones amidst the violent turmoil of the Zimbabwean land seizures.
Zimbabwe, like many African nations, has suffered its fair share of societal atrocities that are undeniably historically inherited, relentlessly and internally systemic and all in living memory. Playing out to the rest of the world in an endless cycle of corruption, revolts and government coups, The Zim tackles a controversial, inconclusive subject matter head -on and with the same determination, confusion and frustration as the characters in the film. Independence from Britain was granted to Zimbabwe in 1980, after a long and bloody civil war. With it a government aided agreement for land to be bought from White Farmers and sold to Black Zimbabweans amicably. However the agreement was voided by the British – much to the frustrations and anger of the newly independent country’s government. What followed was one of the country’s most recent and controversial reforms, helmed by first Prime Minister and twice elected President Robert Mugabe and his administration. The enforced decision to seize all white-owned farmland and evacuate their owners resulted in a volatile and bloody battle that eventually saw the acquirement of 4,000 farmlands from white farmers, throughout the early 2000’s and kick-started a subsequent deterioration in Zimbabwe’s lucrative agricultural economy.
Alexander Bedria‘s The Zim is a snapshot of this era – taking place in 2002 we meet Daniel (played by Bedria, himself), a white farmer who considers himself an African (born and raised) and supports his family farming the land that’s been in his family for generations. Poised for the looming threat that will inevitably turn up at his door, Daniel is determined to stand his ground. Alongside him ready to aide the fight to keep the farm is his friend and right hand man – quite literally farm-hand – William (Tongayi Chirisa) a proud Black Zimbabwean.
Together they live on the farm in their respective houses, with their families – Daniel and his pregnant wife and Mother-in-Law and William with his dutiful wife, Aneni. William and Aneni also dream of owning land but, and this is important distinction, they do not want to take it from anyone.
Immediately we’re thrown into an intense stand-off between Daniel and an imposing Black civilian called Wilson Matonga. Matonga arrives like a whirlwind – demanding the eviction of Daniel and his family from what will be his property. Questions of reparations, and who should be held accountable for the sins of the past are in constant flux.
As a character, Daniel is only doing what any man would do – and be damned if he would uproot all that he has worked hard for and known to the threats of those driven not by love of the country but misdirected anger from a long history unjust upheaval and bloodshed. Good people did suffer, on all sides. Not all Black Zimbabweans would have been for the controversial reform and not all White farmers at the time would have been complicit for their ancestors crimes.
“I was inspired by the men and women who endured extraordinary hardship, yet never lost their humanity. I hope the film honors them,” said writer/director Alexander Bedria who nearly five years researching, developing and crowdfunding the film.
The Zim is a beautifully picturesque film, full of sweeping and all encompassing landscapes big enough to help carry the weight of an overwhelming subject matter, in a short space of time. We’re immediately presented with a brief history of the contentious past that leads to the film’s present. The threat bares teeth within minutes of the first scene, and gradually builds to a climax full of heartrending beautifully articulated dialogue from conversations between characters throughout the film.
It’s an effective and correct decision to offer up various point of views and no conclusive answers, because there isn’t one. It’s a sincere commentary on the domino effect of a shameful past but more importantly a welcomed and championed call, by Bedria, for national healing.