A DOCUMENTARY film showing how white farmers in Zimbabwe are subjected to brutal physical and mental violence was presented by its director, Lucy Bailey, yesterday at the Herbert Art Gallery; writes Radina Choleva.
Oscar and Bafta nominated, “Mugabe and the White African” explores the challenges one family faces as they strongly refuse to leave their home land. The film goes through all the measures they carry to protect what is theirs by, ultimately, taking to court the President of Zimbabwe himself, Robert Mugabe.
Having to film covertly with no supporting funds and having to illegally get their equipment in at night by boats, in order to avoid imprisonment, raised the value of the film as Bailey explained: “We are trying to make some difference and show what happens in a country where there are no human rights.” As to what encouraged her and her partner, Andrew Thompson, not to give up on the insanely dangerous road they were walking, she said: “The family kept going and we kept going because they did.”
One of the main struggles they faced was when filming at the hospital, as Mike Campbell, the “white African”, and his son-in-law suffered severe injuries after being beaten up. Another place with issues was the court, where initially the authorities did not allow filming. “I just kept asking and asking and being very persistent about being allowed to film, because what was happening needed to be shown and at the end they let me do it,” recalled Bailey.
Asked whether the Zimbabweans threatening the Campbell’s knew about the cameras, she replied: “They were all aware of it. We left a camera with the family, because we could not be there all the time, as it was too dangerous. But I think everyone thought that the family is just filming and nobody realized where it would end up.”
The powerful film has been screened to a small audience in Britain, then it has gone to a film festival in Prague and later this year it will be shown in France. Questioned whether somebody from the Mugabe regime and the African government has seen the production, Bailey responded: “They didn’t know that we were filming in Zimbabwe, they thought we were filming in Namibia. But they know that it exists now and I don’t know if it has been seen at a high level, though they are aware of it and they are angry about it.”
As a film maker, Bailey prefers to tell stories of real life with real heroes, considering that they could be more compelling compared to Hollywood dramas. As to her expectations of this documentary, she outlined: “I hope it will have a crucial impact and the government will start making changes about what’s happening with the people there.”