Production : Arte France/TACT Prod./Michael Raeburn
International television distribution.
Available from Michael Raeburn
March 11, 2002 : Robert Mugabe, anti-colonial guerrilla leader, triumphant victor of the first general election for an independent Zimbabwe, and President for over two decades, gets himself re-elected for another six years. But... to achieve this he has to hound, torture and kill the opposition and their supporters, trigger agricultural chaos and economic ruin, and rig the elections.
Michael Raeburn is a privileged witness of these historical moments and of their aftermath. He grew up in the capital Harare where he also went to university. In 1969 he turned the tables on his British colonial ancestors by making 'Rhodesia Countdown' advocating guerrilla war against the white minority government of Ian Smith. After his expulsion from the country, he also wrote the book 'Black Fire' in support of the African war effort and of his hero, Robert Mugabe, to whom he became increasingly linked as this film shows.
What is really at stake behind the occupation of the white commercial farms ? Why does Mugabe use racist rhetoric against the British and Amercians? And what will the consequences be for his anti-globalisation stance?
'Zimbabwe Countdown' is an insider's view made over the last three years. The director has privileged connections with politicians both within the government and against it, and with writers, artists and journalists - he uses them to procure rich insights into the crisis ravaging his country.
- Ist Prize - African Film Festival Of Milan, 2003
- London Film Festival - double-bill with 'Rhodesia Countdown'
- Cape Town World Cinema Festival - "Signis International Jury Award" 2003
- Life Tracks Festival, Clermont-Ferrand, France: 'Regional Council
- Prize', 'The Beyond Borders Prize' 2003
- Etats Généraux du Documentaire Lussas, France 2003
- Prix Italia – Festival Catania, Sicily 2004
Selection of reviews:-
- "A devastating confirmation of the power of language is on show at the London Film Festival in Michael Raeburn's moving documentary 'Zimbabwe Countdown'. " Terrence Blacker - The Independent - UK
- "Raeburn takes us on a personal journey where he tries to discover how his hero of the struggle, Robert Mugabe, has become a brutal dictator. His witty commentary provides some levity to what pans out as an ugly canvas of Mugabe's sanctioned violence… Combined with fascinating perspectives of the intellectual elite, the film is an indictment of the Mugabe regime. Dynamic editing gives us a clear perspective on the crisis tearing Zimbabwe apart." Mail & Guardian - South Africa
- "Acerbic and hard-hitting… a savage indictment." The Sunday Times, South Africa
- "… This slide into brutality and chaos, is so well described by Michael Raeburn in his formidable documentary! In this instance, we are a thousand miles away from those whitemen who love to whine nostalgically about the good old days of colonialism. Raeburn, a left-wing intellectual born in Africa, campaigned for the Union Jack to be lowered in what was once called Rhodesia. He supported Robert Mugabe's 'freedom fighters', and until recently, considered Mugabe to be 'the prestigious leader of a multi-racial Zimbabwe'. Today, he denounces the President's dictatorial repression. His dream has become a nightmare!" Nouvel Observateur - France
- " 'The method and impact of repression under colonial rule and under ZANU-PF today are frighteningly similar - and so is our resentment,' says the director who was once a fervent supporter of Robert Mugabe during the independence struggle. The scenes he reveals describe with eloquence a terrifying situation which he courageously denounces." Le Figaro – France
- "For this sharp, clear and scrupulously reasoned film, the director is now persona non grata in Zimbabwe. Michael Raeburn powerfully describes the rapid transition to dictatorship. Without delusion, his film methodically investigates the tactics and strategies of his childhood hero." Télérama – France
- "An instructive historical synthesis, full of subtleties, directed by an exiled Zimbabwean. Once an opponent of the racist Rhodesian regime, and a champion of Mugabe, he now denounces the racist policies of the country's rulers." TéléStar – France
- "In this film which won 1st Prize at the African Film Festival in Milan, the director does not hesitate to submerge the spectator in shocking images of violence. Surely the best way of fighting a repressive government must lie in this method of exposing its daily behaviour?" Le Monde – France
- "With an insider's vision, Raeburn analyses clearly the manoeuvres of the President to weaken a democratic opposition." Les Inrockuptibles – France