Based on the real-life ‘land grab‘ policy enforced by Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe during the early 2000s, this film looks at how the measures affect farmer Daniel (Bedria) and his farmhand William (Tongayi Chirisa), whose seemingly ideal life is shattered when government-backed enforcer Wilson (Shaun Baker) turns up with a group of men with the intent to take Daniel’s farm by force. Daniel and William are forced to choose between their shared livelihood and the men’s demands.
As a director, Bedria effectively establishes the deceptively peaceful atmosphere of Daniel’s farm life, where his family and William’s live together in an image of ideal racial coexistence, as well as its disruption in the form of pro-government black invaders, who see their actions as ideal retribution for decades of colonial oppression.
In particular, his handling of sequences involving a birthday party at the farm as well as Wilson’s argument for seizing Daniel’s land also manages to show both sides of the ‘land reform’ conflict without either idealising the white settlers or justifying the violent actions of the pro-Mugabe forces. The only aspect that rings somewhat false is the ending, which implies that Wilson’s men can be dissuaded from violence by coming against one example of interracial cooperation.
As an actor, Bedria does convincingly portray Daniel’s friendship with William, as well as his attempts to de-escalate the conflict with Wilson and his men. However, his reactions to William being seriously injured by Wilson’s men, as well as to Wilson in general, seem slightly too muted considering the situations. A more intense approach for these sequences would have improved Bedria’s portrayal of Daniel.
However, Chirisa and Baker both impress in their respective roles, with Chirisa managing to convincingly depict not only William’s loyalty and friendship towards Daniel, but also his struggle to reconcile these attributes with his own desire for land of his own. Baker provides a subtly terrifying portrayal of Wilson’s power over his men as well as his intimidation of Daniel and William that effectively underlines the threat he poses.
The Zim provides an intense but effective look at the controversial Mugabe-era ‘land reform’ policy through the eyes of one farmer and his farmhand. Bedria’s direction and the performances from the rest of the cast result in a realistic depiction of how the issue affected both the white and black communities in a running time of under twenty minutes.