Should you be held responsible for the sins of the past? Alexander Bedria explores this question in The Zim, a short film that offers a swift look at the Zimbabwean land seizures. Featuring brilliant performances and poignant, tense-filled scenes, it’s the kind of film that leaves viewers with a lot to think about, long after the end credits.
Beginning with the title card, “For nearly 100 years, the nation of Zimbabwe was a colony of the British Empire,” the film immediately creates a sense of time and place, pulling viewers back through history. Daniel Silva (Bedria), our hero, anchors the film. He’s a hard-working, African-born farmer, living with his wife and working alongside William Zimunya (Tongayi Chirisa), a Zimbabwean native. Daniel’s problems begin when three men arrive at his property with a signed paper, demanding that his land is being taken over. Wilson Matonga (Shaun Baker), the leader of the group, gives Daniel 24 hours to vacate his home, and the story unfolds as a fight for survival.
Weaving a personal tale within a larger narrative about oppression and the generational past makes The Zim very a human story, which proves effective throughout its 17-minute run time. Daniel acknowledges the crimes committed by his ancestors, but questions why he should be forced out of a home that he inherited through birth. As the viewer, we experience the argument from both sides, yet the film still manages to keep us fully aligned with Daniel, suggesting these issues are complex and unresolved. The way Bedria brings his character to the screen is engaging and powerful, showing him as a dignified man, struggling with the “crimes of ghosts”. Allowing us to understand Daniel’s family history, home and work life, we’re able to engage with the conflict at a much deeper level.
Visually, the film doesn’t feel like a typical, low-budget short film. The landscapes are open and sparse, isolating these characters, much like a Hollywood Western, and it’s impossible not to experience feelings of fear and impending threat as the film builds toward its conclusion. The Zim has qualities of “pure cinema” that we often don’t see in short films. It’s very well-made, with the turmoil of the land seizures portrayed excellently.
The Zim, overall, serves as a tense drama that offers a snapshot of Zimbabwe’s troubled past. And, of course, by using traditional genre thrills, it’s always very watchable despite a subject matter that can at times feel overwhelming. The Zim has such a distinctive and historically important hook that it’s bound to leave a long-lasting impression.
Dir: Alexander Bedria
Cast: Bedria, Tongayi Chirisa, Amanda Wing, Constance Ejuma, Shaun Baker, Caroline Lagerfelt, Joel Henry
Prd: Bedria, William Face Barfield, Shannan Keenan
DOP: Matthew Macar
Music: Alex Kovacs, Michael John Mollo
Country: United States
Run Time: 17 minutes