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The Zim (2017) Short Film Review

The Zim is a 2017 drama about a farmer who struggles to protect his home and loved ones amidst the violent turmoil of the Zimbabwean land seizures.

The history, for those who don’t know, is bloody. For a hundred years, Zimbabwe was a colony of the British Empire, until 1980, where after a prolonged civil war, the country gained its independence and a system of land management was instilled allowing for the buying and selling of land owned by white farmers, with Britain financing half the cost. By the end of the 1990s, however, that agreement was terminated, effectively ending all commitments to the reform. Zimbabwe responded by enacting a ‘fast-track’ policy that saw land forcibly confiscated without compensation, leading to deadly conflicts across the country by the turn of the century. It was a controversial and heavily criticized campaign of violence that brought economic upheaval and cultural instability.

Alexander Bedria‘s The Zim, is a 17-minute short film that shines a brief light on the subject, foregoing a larger national narrative for a simple, personal slice of that history, focusing on one family at the center of it. Bedria plays Daniel Silva, a white farmer with a large piece of land that has been in his family for decades. He considers himself an African, being born and raised in Zimbabwe, working the same farm generations of his family have done before. He has a pregnant wife (Amanda Wing) and shares his home with her mother. Working with him, and living on the same land is William Zimunya (Tongayi Chirisa), a native Zimbabwean, along with his wife Aneni (Constance Ejuma), who are proud of their heritage and dream of owning their own land, but are dear friends of their employers. One day, three men arrive with a paper Daniel as seen before, stating that his land is being confiscated and that he must evacuate within 24 hours, the men claiming they will return tomorrow and in force. Choices must be made.

Perhaps most effective in Bedria’s film is the sense of place and history. In a very short time, we become quickly entrenched in the land and its past, but more so in the frightening immediate future. Standing toe-to-toe with the leader of the men looking to take the land – an intimidating figure named Wilson Matonga (Shaun Baker) – Daniel says he cannot deny the crimes of ghosts, admitting to a troubled history, but questions how long those in the present must pay for what’s been done in the distant past. 

That’s at the heart of Bedria’s film, the burden Daniel acknowledges for the stealing of land a century before and the life he has inherited by birth to maintain. How many generations will cleanse the dark past? We get a sense of truth to both sides and Bedria unfolds the short story to a moment that I won’t spoil but is both surprising for the direction it takes and also for the symbolism it represents. Daniel, William, and Matonga are dignified men believing in their rights to the land they stand upon, and that leaves the viewer in a very (purposeful) state of indecision. A poignant film, well-directed and performed, The Zim shares a story not told enough. This is highly recommended.

The Zim (2017) Short Film Review
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