My friend in Zimbabwe and programmer extraordinaire for African festivals, Arthur Baradzanwa Mataruse, tells me that Opening Night of The Encounters Documentary Festival was the “doccie in Cape Town (that’s where the gala is) – Robert Mugabe – What Happened… ‘I really enjoyed it and is one of the most balanced doccies on Zim that I have seen’.”
Africa’s most prestigious documentary film festival, is running from 9-26 June 2011 at Nu Metro V and A Waterfront and The Labia on Orange in Cape Town and at Nu Metro Hyde Park and The Bioscope in Johannesburg.
The documentary, “Robert Mugabe… What Happened?” directed by Simon Bright and produced by Michael Auret, has its World Premiere as the Opening Night film of the Encounters South Africa International Documentary Festival in Cape Town on Thursday 9 June 2011. Billed as the definitive account of Mugabe’s life, it dramatically illustrates his successful liberation and development of the country but also his ruthless and cunning retention of power at all costs.
Bright says that this film “gives Mugabe the credit where its due. It’s an exploration of what happened to a promising African leader who was well respected and it recognises his fight for freedom and against Apartheid. But it also explores the forces that caused him to effectively destroy a lot of what he built.”
In parallel narratives Simon Bright tells the stories of Rhodesia’s transition to Zimbabwe and the personal journey of Robert Mugabe, using one to explain the other, finally suggesting why Mugabe chose the road he has. As a biography it has everything – first-hand accounts of Mugabe’s early life with a desperately poor Catholic mother, what he was like at school, the effects of a Jesuit education and his rage against his absent father. As his star ascends commentators reflect on early landmarks, particularly his attendance of Ghana’s independence celebrations in 1957. It’s clear the highly intellectual Young Turk was admired and respected through the 1960s and 70s, Bright tracing the origins of the esteem through fascinating archival film interviews. The parallel story of the transition is equally well researched, as are later episodes of importance, notably Lancaster House, the Matabeleland genocide and the growing role of global business in Africa’s economies. But it’s the behind-the-scenes jostling for power which Bright exposes that is the most riveting, and from it Mugabe emerges as unquestionably one of history’s most canny, devious leaders. It is a haunting film, the music an achievement in itself, a mix of liberation, folk and contemporary sounds. Simon Bright was co-producer of the pivotal 1996 Zimbabwe liberation film Flame.
Courtesy of the Director and Spier Films
Bright is a Guest of the Festival and will attend a Q&A in Cape Town.