Monday, June 07, 2010

"Mugabe and the White African", or, Pity the poor white man... a movie at SIFF, Seattle International Film Festival

Just got out of it. Synopsis: a film crew follows around a white farmer in Zimbabwe and his family who are being evicted from their land and fighting it in an international court. The film, such as it is, devotes not a word to colonialism, not a word to the history of Zimbabwe, not a word to the British, but acts as if this farmer was someone in the United States or elsewhere whose land was being taken from him for no reason whatsoever. No arguments about why a British colonist should retain his land are given. The only arguments that are brought to light are that white farmers in Zimbabwe own only 2% of the land and so their possession is more of a propaganda point and that the people who the land is given to are cronies of Mugabe who don't farm it but strip the equipment down and sell it and then leave the land wild. But these two ideas get about five minutes total within the whole film. Most of it revolves around the white family crying because people are coming to take their land, and because people come into their farms attempting to evict them. Any time that there's been land redistribution, whether in France, Russia, or China, there have been tears and crying families. People have to toughen themselves up and not pay attention, or else the tears of a criminal will stop them from stopping a crime. That said, using force, which is probably inevitable in land redistribution, and which can come in many forms, doesn't mean indiscriminate force where people can do anything to anyone. At the end they were abducted and severely beaten after Mugabe's installation as President. That's not acceptable.

Mugabe is a brutal dictator, but his main victims are the black people of Zimbabwe themselves.

*on edit: despite all of this it's a question of priorities. At 2% of the land, white farms in Zimbabwe are far from the most pressing issue. Instead, Mugabe is singling them out in order to mobilize popular support behind his government, and some of the violence that's been visited on the white farmers has likely happened more because Mugabe has made them the enemy and less because people are just, on their own, angry enough to do stuff like that.

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