Sunday, 3 January 2010

 Mugabe and the White African (2009) 
  Reviewed by Joe Utichi  

With mainstream news media focused on far more popular current events, it’s the responsibly of documentary makers to remind us of those stories of world tragedy which might not rate the News at Ten. Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe provoked international outrage ten years ago when he instituted a land reform act which, he said, would take the country’s farms away from their white owners and distribute it amongst the poor black population of the country.

75-year-old white farmer Michael Campbell has been fighting to keep his land ever since, forced to defend his rights to his property both in court and against attacks from Mugabe’s ZANU-PF militia. Campbell, a South African who moved to what was then Rhodesia in 1974, is the White African of the title, determined to prove that Mount Carmel farm – acquired after Independence and on the open market in 1980 – is rightfully his, and the film documents his 2008 legal battle with Mugabe.

Directors Lucy Bailey and Andrew Thompson share Campbell’s story at enormous risk – there remains a press ban in Zimbabwe and all footage was filmed covertly – and weave a compelling drama which plays out in contrasts of courtrooms and farmland as Campbell and his family battle at turns Mugabe’s legal team and his militia. As the film unspools, so the true face of the land reform is revealed; the farms seized from white farmers - whose lives have been lived in Africa for generations - going not to the poor but to high-ranking ZANU-PF officials and their wives and girlfriends.

That the land issues in the country stretch more than 100 years to its colonial population is not disputed, but what emerges in the here and now is a picture of ethnic cleansing at the hands of an incredibly dangerous man. Mugabe’s rule and the power he brings promise to disrupt the legal process at every turn and Campbell is one of the few farmers with the nerve to fight the fight at all.

The battle continues to be waged – Mount Carmel farm was destroyed in an arson attack in September – but Mugabe and the White African is a film determined to bring the story to international attention. It currently sits on Oscar’s Best Documentary longlist of 15 films – the final nominees will be announced on 2nd February – and its potency and impact deserve to take it all the way. A better documentary you’re unlikely to see this year. Four stars.

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Blogger Christian Allard said...

After reading the review of Joe Utichi, I am appalled by the way this "documentary" has been advertised.

We are asked to believe that Mike Campbell acquired Mount Carmel farm after Independence and on the open market in 1980 which would make the farm rightfully his.

What would Joe Utichi's readers should know is that Mike Campbell purchased this farm FROM HIMSELF IN 1999!
Let me tell you that the then South African army captain purchased the large estate with all its farms and 500 workers in 1974 when Zimbabwe was Rhodesia ran by a white supremacist regime.

Is Mount Carmel farm rightfully his now that you know the truth?

Thursday, August 05, 2010 9:04:00 am  

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