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Mugabe and the White African (2009)

An intimate and moving account of one family's extraordinary courage in the face of overwhelming injustice and brutality.
Nominated for 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 2 wins & 6 nominations. See more awards »


In 2008 Mike Campbell - one of the few remaining white farmers in Zimbabwe to have held fast in the face of the violent 'Land Reform' programme - took the unprecedented step of challenging President Robert Mugabe before the SADC International Court (SADC - South African Development Community) to defend his farm, which is also home to 500 black workers and their families, and to charge Mugabe and his government with racial discrimination and with violations of Human Rights. Written by Anonymous

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Plot Keywords:

zimbabwe | human rights | racism | See All (3) »




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Release Date:

7 August 2009 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Mugabe et l'Africain blanc  »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$1,907 (USA) (23 July 2010)


$4,542 (USA) (13 August 2010)

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Featured in Grierson 2010: The British Documentary Awards (2010) See more »

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User Reviews

A depiction of victims sacrificed to the brutal retention of political power, but also one of inspiring courage
16 March 2011 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This documentary is a moving, emotionally charged film focused on one elderly white farmer and his family as they try to hold on to their farm in Zimbabwe and validate the justice of their cause before the SADC International Court, a kind of International Court of Justice. As much of the film depicts the family's preparation for their court appearance and the associated consultation with their lawyers, the jurisdiction of the court in this matter and what they hoped to achieve from the court's decision was not clear to me. The Assistant Attorney General of Zimbabwe says in the film that this court has no weight on matters within Zimbabwe, while the advocates for Mike Campbell, the white farmer, intend to emphasize the racism of Zimbabwe's "land-reform" by showing that only white farmers are being expropriated.

But this film's strength is not on the legal issues, or the political context, but on the courage and strength of character of Campbell, his son-in-law (Ben Freeth) and their wives as they face political and physical intimidation. We see the Zimbabwe government exerting increasing pressure, most ominously through its thugs who seem to enter the farm at will to beat up its workers and tell Campbell and his family that "we don't want you here in Zimbabwe". Campbell does not back down under the intimidation but decides to highlight the justice of his cause by taking his case to the SADC. It's curious to me why the government through its marauders didn't just go in and physically dispossess this family of their farm, killing a few on the way, mostly black African workers, as they did with most of the white-owned farms previously dispossessed. Presumably, Campbell's claim to his farm was more difficult for Mugabe and his minions to wave away; he apparently bought it from another white farmer during Ian Smith's white colonial government a few years before Zimbabwe's independence.

Some of these reviews have indicated that no historical context is provided in this film, particularly how white farms were acquired during the colonial period. Well, the film was never meant to be a comprehensive historical review of land acquisition, usage and disposition in Southern Rhodesia / Zimbabwe complete with exposés of Cecil Rhodes and the like. It's a very personal microcosm of the recent "land-reform" in Zimbabwe where President Mugabe plays the "racial card" to dispossess white farmers and transfer their farms to his political supporters somewhat akin to the privatization of Soviet-era state assets to politically-connected insiders. Unfortunately, these were not accomplished farmers, and Zimbabwe's food exports have dropped significantly since the dispossessions. Indeed, it's hard to imagine anyone in a democratic country retaining power whose stewardship of his nation's economy has resulted in 80% unemployment and 100 billion (?) % inflation without resort to violent intimidation as Mugabe has done. You can see the look of fear in the faces of the black farm workers as Mugabe's thugs intimidate them and their livelihoods are threatened. I wished the film focused a bit more on these workers who have much to lose from this "land-reform"; perhaps they were reluctant to talk for fear of what might happen to their families.

In summary, this is a powerful drama that needs to be told; and I'll conclude with two comments: (1) if you live in a nation that goes by the rule of law,and not the rule of men, be thankful, and (2) imagine the form of land-reform that a Nelson Mandela might have initiated in Zimbabwe, a more just, evolutionary approach with fair compensation and allocation of the land to experienced farm workers of all political stripes who don't necessarily have to be Mugabe's "bush veterans". Just compare the Mandela of "Invictus" and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to the Mugabe regime and his election-time rhetoric:"the whites are gathering at our borders and getting ready to take your land back" (reported in AP).

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