This doccie takes an inside look at Zimbabwe’s power tug

2017-03-19 06:02

Johannesburg - Documentary enthusiasts will be happy to know that Afridocs, the series that shows all the best stories from South Africa and other emerging democracies, is now on BET every Sunday night. Appropriately for Human Rights Day, tonight’s doccie is the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival winner Democrats, which is about Zimbabwean politics.

When film maker Camilla Nielsson turned her attention to Zimbabwe’s constitution in-the-making, it was an important and tumultuous period in the country’s political history. Democrats covered the birth of politically unstable Zimbabwe’s Constitution over a period of three years, as it was being drafted, negotiated and signed into law – with an astonishing level of internal access to the ruling party of President Robert Mugabe and the divided opposition.

Watch the trailer here:

The documentary, while entertaining, is an important reflection of Zimbabwe’s history and fickle democratic future as various political, local and personal interests bog the process down.

Nielsson captures local colour that cannot be forged or imagined despite the unsettling reflections of passionate people struggling to improve their government against the will of the government itself.

The film shows the back-and-forth battles between two sworn political enemies, Paul Mangwana, representing Zanu-PF, and Douglas Mwonzora, a representative of the Movement for Democratic Change, who must work together for the common good of the country as co-chairs of the Constitutional Parliamentary Committee (Copac). The documentary follows them as they work to steer the country towards founding principles that will define its future.

It begins with archival footage and on-screen text that do a good job of helping viewers who may not be familiar with the political situation in Zimbabwe move from one phase of the story to another.

Since Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980, the country has been ruled by autocrat Mugabe. Compelled by international scrutiny in 2008, over what many saw as a sham election, President Mugabe was forced to share power with his rival, Morgan Tsvangirai. That led to the formation of Copac, which was tasked with drafting a Constitution that would push the country’s government closer to a more fair and modern democracy.

Both Mangwana and Mwonzora are lawyers, and they each make a great show of being happy champions for their respective political parties and approach each other with often reverent friendliness. With all the concerns raised by citizens during the outreach sessions held across Zimbabwe, Nielsson’s handling of the events silently stresses that there are no simple answers to those questions – an unsettling and dissatisfied feeling that travels with you as a viewer throughout the film.

But the portrait of passionate people struggling to improve their government is rather satisfactory. Both inspiring and upsetting as democracy often is, Democrats is a very necessary watch.

Catch Democrats at 18:00 on BET (DStv 129).

Read more on:    zimbabwe  |  documentary  |  tv  |  democrats

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