The tragedy of Zimbabwe is both well-documented and all-too-often ignored. As former BBC foreign correspondent Peter Godwin noted in the post-screening Q and A, if the country exported oil or terrorism, a responsible nation (i.e., the U.S.) would have stepped in and ended the rule of Robert Mugabe long ago. Since 2000, Mugabe has initiated a series of land reforms that have stripped white farmers of their farms and redistributed the land to his cronies.
The results of these land grabs have been devastating. Zimbabwe has gone from a once-prosperous nation to one of the poorest in the world. Hyper-inflation is rampant. Starvation and cholera stalk the countryside. The average lifespan has dipped to 35 years. Mugabe has presided over this collapse with an iron fist, ordering the beatings of his enemies and playing racial politics in order to maintain a grip on power.
“Mugabe and the White African” tells the story of one white farmer, Michael Campbell, Mugabe is trying to force from his land. Mr. Campbell and his family deal with harassment, intimidation, and other threats in order to stay on the land they’ve owned since Zimbabwean independence. Without spoiling too much, let’s just say it’s an uphill battle. Moving, gripping and important, “Mugabe and the White African” is the finest new documentary I’ve seen this year and, if there’s any justice, a surefire nominee in the best documentary category at next year’s Academy Awards. But don’t take my word for it: There’s another screening Saturday at 5 p.m.