“Yes, the perfect movie to watch!” I doubt that everyone will immediately share my enthusiasm about a documentary involving land seizures in Zimbabwe, but needless to say, I was quite excited to see Mugabe and the White African pop up in my Netflix instant watch.
Since researching Zimbabwean politics for a paper on illiberal democracies, I have intentionally kept up to date with current events and have kept the people of Zimbabwe in my prayers. Knowing a bit about Mugabe, I expected the documentary to appeal to themes of justice while exposing the heinous crimes of an corrupt political regime. But, I was admittedly surprised to see how clearly and prominently themes of biblical justice and faith were highlighted in this film. It is definitely a must see for any Christian interested in social justice or international relations.
For those who may not know, allow me to briefly provide some context: Robert Mugabe has served as Prime Minister/President for over thirty years- declaring himself “president for life” in 2006. His party ZANU-PF is known for political violence, unfair elections, corrupt economic policies, and human rights violations. In 2000, Mugabe’s regime began a land redistribution program, promoted as an initiative to reallocate the land owned by the minority white farmers to the majority poor black population. In all actuality, it was redistributed to political allies of ZANU-PF. In the years following, there has been widespread hunger, hyperinflation, job loss, and increasing political violence. [Disclaimer: this is obviously an incomplete summary; here is a good place to start for a more comprehensive history]
Back to the documentary…
“In 2008, Mike, 75 years old and a grandfather… took the unprecedented step of challenging Robert Mugabe before the SADC (South African Development Community) international court, charging him and his government with racial discrimination and of violations of Human Rights.
This film is an intimate account of one family’s astonishing bravery in the face of brutality, in a fight to protect their property, their livelihood and their country…
On the brink of losing everything, Mike and his family (wife Angela, daughter Laura and her husband Ben Freeth) stand united by their courage, their faith and their hope… Whatever the verdict by the court, this audacious and unprecedented stand may yet cost them their lives.” – excerpts from the summary on the film’s website
Despite the threats and odds against them, the family fights for justice believing that God is directing them in this pursuit. The cameras document them asking workers to pray for the court cases, reading their Bibles, and talking about God’s presence being with them. All this to say, it is obvious that faith is important in their daily lives.
When Mike, Angela, and Ben are kidnapped, beaten, and tortured… amazingly they seem to maintain their faith, their livelihood, and their sense of calling. Laura talks of interceding for her dad, mom, and husband– truly believing that God heard her prayer and saved their lives. A week later, Ben travels to the international tribunal to continue the case. During an interview, he says that he has no bitterness and no hatred toward his attackers. He simply smiles and says that he has only love, and that love is exactly what the country needs.
Their story is heartbreaking, inspiring, and convicting. I find myself asking: What would I do if I were in their shoes? Would I persist in prayer, the pursuit of justice, and kindness to others in the face of adversity? Would I be able to smile and say I love men who literally almost beat me to death?
The truth is that I don’t know that I would. Honestly, I know that I don’t show that level of faith in my own daily life. And, the thing is that my life has never been on the line- the only thing under the threat of dying is my pride, my security, and my reputation.
The Campbell family was faithful in the little things like the everyday running of their farm, and faithful in the huge things like international court tribunals. I have little doubt that God will look upon their lives and say “well done good and faithful servants”. My prayer is that God will continue to work on me and enable me to live a life worthy of the same affirmation.
Even more importantly, my prayers are with the people of Zimbabwe who are still facing injustice. Just today, the news reports that ZANU-PF supporters have evicted children from an orphanage. Even more disturbing is the fact that the supporter responsible is an excommunicated Anglican bishop…
I digress… bottom line: you should watch the film. [Update: Full film is available to stream for free on PBS- there you have no excuse, watch it.]