Mugabe And The White African (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner07/01/2010

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 88 mins

Well made, thought-provoking and extremely harrowing documentary – it's unquestionably worth seeing, but viewers should be aware that it's a profoundly depressing experience that is likely to leave you feeling angry and impotent.

What's it all about?
Covertly directed by Lucy Bailey and Andrew Thompson, Mugabe and The White African is a British-made documentary that centres on the efforts of 74-year-old white Zimbabwean farmer Mike Campbell, his wife Angela, daughter Laura and son-in-law Ben Freeth to take President Robert Mugabe to the international African court for racism and a violation of their human rights as a result of Mugabe's controversial land seizure program. As the film begins, the court orders a delay, which leads to increased threats and intimidation for the family, especially as many of their friends and neighbours have already been driven out of their homes.

As the court date approaches, the family are subjected to horrific attacks, but Mike and Ben are determined to see the case through to the end.

The Good
The film is extremely well directed, with a constant sense of lurking threat, perhaps heightened by the fact that we've seen enough films to fear what's coming – indeed, the events of the film are very similar to Claire Denis' upcoming drama White Material. As a result, several sequences are fraught with tension and unbearably suspenseful. Most notably, the family sitting around while someone reports groups of men sneaking around outside, or a visit from a minister's son, who delivers an angry, vitriolic speech about how the whites are hated and everyone wants them out.

The film places the viewer in an unusual position – we're used to seeing films about racism against black people and the reversal here is both thought-provoking and disturbing. More troubling still is the sight of the deeply religious family weeping together as they read passages from the Bible for comfort after the latest vicious attack.

The Bad
The film is a thoroughly depressing experience but two clear emotions emerge: first, an overwhelming sense of impotent rage over the fact that the Mugabe regime continues unchallenged to this day (the film was shot during the tumultuous 2008 Presidential election) and second, a genuine sense of admiration for the humanity evinced by both Robert and Ben.

Worth seeing?
This is a powerful, thought-provoking documentary that demands to be seen, provided you can handle being thoroughly depressed afterwards.

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Mugabe And The White African (15)
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Content updated: 18/10/2017 23:16

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