Discovering Zimbabwe: A Conversation with Alexander Bedria for Oscar Hopeful THE ZIM
Alexander Bedria’s The Zim takes home the prestigious Best of Fest award at the LA Shorts International Film Festival Actor Alexander Bedria’s directorial debut The Zim, which he also wrote, took home the top prize when it recently premiered at LA Shorts International Film Festival.
Almost 300 shorts were in contention for the award.
The Zim is the story of one man’s struggle to protect his farm and loved ones from a violent land invasion. Inspired by true events that occurred during the controversial Zimbabwean land seizures in the early 2000’s, The Zim follows the story of farmer Daniel Silva (Alexander Bedria) who must decide between fleeing the country or standing his ground.
William Zimunya (native Zimbabwean Tongayi Chirisa), his farmhand, is torn between loyalty to his lifelong friend and fear of the powerful men who lead the charge to invade the farm.
“I was inspired by the men and women who endured extraordinary hardship, yet never lost their humanity. I hope the film honours them,” said writer/director Alexander Bedria who nearly five years researching, developing and crowdfunding the film.
As an actor, Bedria has displayed considerable range, recently guest starring on the Showtime series Ray Donovan and HBO’s The include: Scandal, Criminal Minds, 90210, CSI: Miami and The Amazing Spider-man.
This drama stars Alexander Bedria (The Newsroom, Ray Donovan), Tongayi Chrisa (iZombie, Gaffigan), Amanda Wing (Sunshine State), Constance Ejuma (Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders, 24), Shaun Baker (V.I.P) and Caroline Largerfelt (Gossip Girl).
The Fan Carpet‘s Camila Sayers had the opportunity of speaking to Alexander Bedria for The Zim…
Firstly, can you tell us what motivated you to write and direct a film about the Zimbabwean land seizures?
I didn’t know much about the land seizures until a friend who was living in Zimbabwe told me about them. I became fascinated with the topic, especially after digging into the research and watching the harrowing documentary “Mugabe and the White African.” The subject felt far reaching to me, and touched on many themes that would be powerful in a narrative story.
Did you have any trepidation about writing and acting in a story which deals head on with the racial and social tension present in these land disputes?
Of course, but I found that the trepidation would funnel into deeper feeling of responsibility to the people and history we were dramatising. The subject is one that remains controversial, and the scars of the conflict run deep for so many. Every aspect of the production was meticulous in the push for authenticity, from the screenwriting to to the production design to the accents the actors utilized. I knew that we’d have a magnifying glass on us, and needed to feel that we did everything in our power to get it right. Tongayi (Chirisa), who is from Zimbabwe, was amazing in this regard.
He was like a compass helping me navigate the waters of verisimilitude and racial politics throughout the entire process.
The dialogue is very gripping, it seems that you made very clear choices on the words and phrases used, not much is said but when it is, it is very strong. How was the process for you as a writer?
Early drafts were far more dialogue heavy, but draft by draft, dialogue not critical to the specific story in our film was cut. This continued well into the editing process. It was almost surgical, walking the line between serving both historical context and dramatic tension. Some tough creative decisions were made throughout, but I am very proud of where we landed.
The cinematographer, Matthew Macar does an incredible job, where was the film shot and how challenging was scouting for a location which had such importance to the core of the story?
Our scouting process took a few years. Since we were shooting in Southern California, it was especially important that we find as close a match to Zimbabwe as we could. We must have looked at every movie ranch in the area, and dozens of private farms and homes. In the end, our producer Shannan Keenan found a ranch that was perfect for us. The owners could not have been more generous and accommodating.
And I really can’t say enough about what Matt Macar was able to do with the visuals, especially with limited resources. He’s the real thing.
How was it working with the incredibly tight knit and talented cast, as a director and an actor?
It was fantastic. As a director, they made my job easy. The cast was committed to this project long before shooting began, and when the first day came, they were fully immersed and gave everything they had. As an actor, I was equally fortuitous, because I just had to be present with them – in the moment – and react honestly.
Lastly, as this is a film is firmly grounded against a political backdrop, how do you feel to get the amazing reaction the film has so far had?
I am humbled by it, because I owe so much to the many people who helped make it happen. It’s been five years since I first started working on this project, and I just feel incredibly grateful – amidst countless the obstacles we faced – that we were able to see it through.
THE AIM IS IN CONSIDERATION FOR A OSCAR FOLLOWING ITS BEST OF FEST AWARD WIN AT THE LA SHORTS INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL