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
This film is compelling but also seems very incomplete. That's because the context for what is occurring is missing--and the film is hard to relate to as a result. If you are unaware of the political situation in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe over the last 40 or so years, the film is difficult to understand or relate to. Giving this complete picture would have fuzzied up the story a bit but also made it more honest in dealing with the land reform debate.
First, Rhodesia was a racist country--much like South Africa during Apartheid. There is no justification for this--it was bad and you certainly could understand resentment among blacks in the country towards their overlords. This is not addressed in the film and as one reviewer correctly stated, the family featured in the film bought their land from this racism regime. And, a lot of black Africans felt taking the land away was a case of payback--payback for being among the elite.
Second, when Robert Mugabe became leader of Zimbabwe, people in the West generally approved of him. He was seen as a moderate and one of the better African leaders--receiving honorary degrees from major universities abroad as well as honors from the British government. Part of this, I'm sure, was the West's relief that Mugabe was better than the communists who had tried to gain control of the new nation. HOWEVER, over the years, Mugabe turned out to live by one rule...whatever is best for Mugabe! Whatever it took to remain in power, he did. If it meant appealing to the uneducated masses by proclaiming land reform, he did it--even though the way it was done was haphazard AND the standard of living for the Zimbabwean people actually got much worse and mass starvation resulted!! He and his friends, however, didn't suffer during this horrible economic slide--and, in effect, he and his friends became the whites in charge of the nation! In addition, any real efforts to wrest him from power or mount an opposition were crushed--seemingly by 'the people'. In other words, Mugabe gave consent to roving gangs to kill or intimidate opposition. Mugabe himself behaved like he had no control over this--that it was a popular movement. But, as President for Life and dictator, he could have stopped it but instead fomented race and class hatred for his own means.
So, put in its context both the pro- and anti-land reform groups have ammunition for their case. It sure complicates things but also gives a much more accurate view of the overall picture. I sure would have liked to see and hear this information in this film.
So how about this movie? Well, it gives the story of one particular farmer and his family that were hold-outs--among the last of the white farmers to remain in Zimbabwe. The rest were beaten and chased from the country or killed. It is sad. It is very compelling--especially when the family was severely beaten by the Mugabe-sanctioned mobs. Taking the land with no compensation whatsoever just seemed wrong--especially since the criteria used for taking the land was the color of his skin. It does make this point well if the film does not intend to educate you about the whole picture but only the plight of the family and nothing more. Considering how long it took to make the film, the risks to their safety and the quality of the production, I'd recommend it even if the film is incomplete. My advice is to see this film but only after reading up on the country and its history. Perhaps there is a good documentary about Mugabe out there and that would be a good place to start.
By the way, had the film given a more thorough view of the context for the events in the film, I don't think it would have significantly harmed their case---it still would have been a moving story.
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