Firstly, I’d like to thank you for agreeing to answering my questions. Why do you think the land seizures in Zimbabwe haven’t been addressed more in film?
That’s a good question. It’s a delicate subject with wounds that are still fresh for so many. The complicated history behind the land seizures – the dark colonial past, the racial politics, the violence that the evictions brought – require a story that acknowledges these truths. For a filmmaker, this can provide a tremendous challenge – walking the line between historical context and dramatic fiction. I think the topic deserves continued and thoughtful exploration, as it touches on a human struggle that crosses borders and generations.
What do you think the film says about the relationship between white and black people in Africa?
I wanted to avoid proselytizing as I felt it would disrespect the audience and the people we were depicting. The ghosts of colonialism can still be seen and felt, and the anger this brings is justifiable. When anger becomes action in the form of retributive violence, is it still justified? It’s more of a question than an answer, and one I hope the audience, regardless of their personal beliefs, ponders.
How do you think race relations in Zimbabwe compare to other countries like the US and UK?
I’d be curious to ask this question to someone who has lived in Zimbabwe, the US, and the UK…as their take on it would be far more informed than mine. Also, getting the perspectives of both a white person and a black person, because their experiences would certainly differ.
Race can be a divisive topic in today’s landscape, but the parallels of the human experience are what most interest me. We may be separated by thousands of miles and hundreds of years of opposing histories, but people are people. Our deepest struggles are far more similar than they are different. I wish people would see that a bit more often.
How does working as a director compare to working as an actor?
Directing allows for the kind of control that acting typically does not. As an actor, you are a hired hand tasked with helping realize someone else’s vision. As a director, the vision is yours – and seeing it through is ultimately your responsibility. Acting can be incredibly rewarding, even cathartic, but those moments are fleeting. Directing offered more of those highs with a rapid-fire succession, simply because so many decisions had to be made on a moment-by-moment basis. I found directing also requires a consistent level of energy, whereas acting requires more energy economization, due to the stop-start nature of the work. A director always has something to do!
What first interested you in the subject of the land seizures?
I learned about the land seizures from a friend who had spent a few years in Zimbabwe, and was immediately interested in learning more about the conflict that lead to them. I started researching as much as I could find about Zimbabwe’s history and political climate that lead to the events depicted in the film. I studied reports from Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO, watched documentary footage and began interviewing real people connected to the events. Every piece of research fascinated me. The more I learned about the events, the more I was inspired to craft a story that explored the emotional experience of the people who lived through them.
How did you react when you learned the film was being considered for an Oscar?
It’s something I have yet to wrap my head around. Making this film has been a five-year odyssey, and I’m just so grateful to finally be able to share it. I’m indebted to the wonderful cast, crew, and endless supporters who helped us see it through. Any accolade we receive is a testament to them.
How has the film been received and what has your reaction been to its reception?
Our premiere at the LA Shorts Fest was such a special night, as it was the first time the entire crew and cast got to see the film. The theater was sold out and the reception seemed quite positive. Then we won the festival’s top prize, Best of Fest, which was beyond imagination. This opened a lot of doors for the film and it has continued to gain many supporters and positive reviews. What’s been especially meaningful to me is how many viewers are expressing empathy for characters on both sides of a polarizing conflict.
Was it important during the casting process to ensure native Zimbabweans were involved?
Tongayi Chirisa’s involvement with this project was crucial in every way. He has such a love for his home and a profound desire to help heal the wounds of its past. Tongayi was like a compass for me, helping guide me toward authenticity and balance in the story and characters. He also served as a technical advisor and co-producer, scrutinizing every detail of production design, dialects, and language. I felt a personal drive to honour his commitment to the project by offering it everything I could.
What other projects have you got planned?
I am currently developing a feature film and meeting on potential television projects. I look forward to sharing exciting announcements very soon!
With thanks to Alexander. My review of The Zim can be found here.