Monday, April 26, 2010

Mugabe and the White African

Showing at the San Francisco International Film Festival: Mugabe and the White African, directed by Lucy Bailey and Andrew Thompson

Synopsis from the SFIFF website:

Michael Campbell, the white African of the title, charges President Robert Mugabe with a racist land reform policy and takes him to court. Once the largest mango producer in Zimbabwe, Campbell—one of a dwindling number of white farmers—takes this bold, unprecedented step in an attempt to keep his farm from distribution to government ministers and cronies. Says codirector Lucy Bailey, “It’s an intimate story of a family, but through their case you get the bigger picture of what is going on inside Zimbabwe.” The seasoned documentary team makes the most of that focus, putting the lives and convictions of the engaging Campbell and his English son-in-law, Ben Freeth, at the unabashed center of the film—Freeth and Campbell even filmed critical scenes themselves with a tiny A1 camera. It’s Freeth who poses the central question: If a white man can be American or Australian, why not African? Andrew Thompson’s cinematography, shot with a large-format camera he smuggled into the country, conveys the lush vastness and visual beauty of Campbell’s Mount Carmel farm and its black workers’ daily labor. Mugabe, a menacing shadow, is present only in news clips and voiceovers, while the musical score conveys a palpable sense of dread. Despite successive government stall tactics and a brutal attack on the family, the outcome of the case is uncertain until the end. Who will win? And what would that mean? —Kathleen Denny

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