Michael Campbell is one of the few hundred white farmers left in Zimbabwe since President Robert Mugabe began his violent ‘Land Reform’ program in 2000. Since then the country has descended into chaos. In 2008 Mike took the unprecedented step of challenging President Robert Mugabe in an International Court; accusing Robert Mugabe and his government of racial discrimination and violations of basic human rights. What follows is an intimate, moving and often terrifying account of one man and his family’s extraordinary courage in the face of overwhelming injustice and brutality. Set against the tumultuous 2008 Presidential elections Mugabe and the White African follows Mike and son-in-law Ben Freeth’s harrowing attempt to save their farm and with it the homes and livelihoods of 500 black workers and their families. Filmed over 12 months, a gripping courtroom drama unfolds whilst all the time Mike, his family and the farm workers face the all too real threats of Mugabe’s wrath on the farm. After months of frightening threats and a horrific attack the Court’s judges finally rule unanimously in Mike’s and Ben’s favour. They return to the farm. But will Mugabe and his henchmen abide the Courts decision?
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Mugabe and the White African
Mugabe and the White African
We have worked together for eight years – and much of that time has been spent filming in Africa, for which we have a huge passion. We’ve recently been working on short films in Africa, where we have been privileged to tell the stories of people who are so poor that they would never have ‘mattered’ otherwise.We have been in many life and death situations with our contributors and have cried and laughed with them as we shared some of the most intimate moments of their lives. Partially because of this, we have been developing and working on longer format documentary ideas in Africa for some time now. The story of Mugabe and the White African is a story that we feel the world should hear. Much has been reported about the eradication of white-owned farms in Zimbabwe and the deterioration and the subsequent collapse of the country. We have all seen news images of beaten up farmers and seen the desperation in people’s eyes as they live in hunger, hopelessness and fear. We wanted to make a film about a big issue like the land reform program policy in Zimbabwe, but in a very intimate and personal way.We believe our audience for this film is sophisticated, and able to read images and characters. There is no commentary; we allow our ‘characters’ to speak for themselves to build up a compelling narrative. The film hinges on emotional moments in image and sound, so its impact on the memory will last long after the facts have been forgotten. This has been our trademark, particularly in our work for Comic Relief. The camera dwells on details – we like shots that are lavish and lingering and show a trust in the relationship with our subjects. This story is both epic and at the same time intimate, and the shooting style reflects this. We let the unfolding action dictate the pace, but the feel will be cinematic and in the moment.We have done everything we can to tell this extraordinary story; one that would no doubt otherwise forever remain as a ‘newspaper snippet.’ We want this film to take the viewer to the heart of a historical moment, one that could be pivotal in Africa’s future. The film responds to what unfolds, but at the end of the day we want the viewers to be able to make up their own minds.LUCY BAILEY & ANDREW THOMPSON, 2009