Mugabe and the White African


Unrated 20092009-01-01T00:00:00 2009-01-01T00:00:00 94 minsPT1H34M SUBSCRIPTION

Synopsis Short-listed as one of the 15 best documentaries of 2010, Mugabe and the White African is the story of one family's astonishing bravery as they fight to protect their property, their livelihood and their country. Mike Campbell is one of the few white farmers left in Zimbabwe since its leader, Robert Mugabe, enacted his disastrous land redistribution program. Once the breadbasket of Africa, Zimbabwe has since spiraled into chaos, the economy decimated as farms given to Mugabe cronies are run into ruin. After enduring years of intimidation and threats, Campbell decides to take action. Unable to call upon help from his country's authorities, he challenges Mugabe before an international court.
  • Oct 23 2011


    Mugabe and the White African is a David-verses-Goliath themed documentary released in 2009 (directed by Lucy Bailey and Andrew Thompson) chronicling the final stages of a decade-long battle between a white landowner and the Zimbabwean government of Robert Mugabe. Farmer Mike Campbell, supported heartily by his son-in-law, Ben Freeth, challenges Mugabe's land redistricting program, rife with racism and abuses of human rights, by filing suit in an international court. Mike Campbell, a self-described white African, refuses to relinquish the farm he owns full and clear to the dictatorial President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe. In between legal proceedings, Campbell allows documentarians access to his home, family, and land. His determination puts him and his entire family in serious jeopardy, and ultimately provokes an incident in which Campbell, his son-in-law, and his wife are beaten thoroughly. Looking death in the face, Campbell does not back down to the violent tactics employed on Mugabe's behalf in an effort to frighten the farmer away from his land and to intimidate him days before an important hearing is to take place. This saga of Mike Campbell and the President of Zimbabwe unfolds smoothly and logically, allowing a moving depiction of the fear, determination, and hate that underlie Mugabe's political methods. The film unfolds seamlessly against beautiful images of Zimbabwe, and carries the intense emotion of the struggle consistently with intimate close-up shots and candid revelations. While the footage is at times overwhelmingly jumpy and haphazard, the cinematography realistically captures the sense of chaos and uncertainty of the circumstances. However, the premise of the film leaves much to be desired. It may easily attract sympathy from an audience completely ignorant of the atrocities of colonization, but it does little to compel much support from the better-informed. Glaring parallels exist between the white farmers in the film and white plantation owners in the United States in the 1800's; much is made of the use of violence and intimidation against the white farmers, yet there is no mention of the callous and murderous process of European colonization of the very same land. The repeated comparisons between Mugabe and Hitler are histrionic, and a reference to Mugabe's policies as comparable to "raping the land" is laughable in comparison to the treatment of millions of African women at the hands of white men. Mugabe's policies may be a far cry from universal humanitarianism, but his actions alone do not - as the film suggests - negate centuries of brutality and narcissism wrought globally by white men under the guise of implementing "civility." The film's piteously narrow and superficial point of view makes a mockery of the suffering it attempts to romanticize. Mugabe and the White African is simply another incantation of the haughty insolence that defines white democracy; the relevance of the topic is at the very least questionable from a global perspective. Anyone who has read Alex Haley's "Roots" will likely find themselves wondering how the very concept of this film did not fizzle before the first word of its script was ever written. Ultimately, Mugabe and the White African is an attempt to tell a tale of good-versus-evil that utterly fails to differentiate who is good from who is evil.

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