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TV and Movies

‘Cook Off’ Lifts Zimbabwe Film Industry Onto The Global Stage

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When you mention movies in Africa, the majority of the attention will go to Nollywood. As one of the biggest movie industries in the world, huge attention is not out of place. But, there are filmmakers across the continent telling compelling stories through movies. In Zimbabwe, some of them are increasingly getting discouraged owing to a dwindling audience. However, a 2017 hilarious comedy, ‘Cook Off’ just hit a deal that will see it screen on one of the largest streaming networks, Netflix. Joe Njagu, the producer of the movie said,

“We’ve been lucky to be able to screen the film in a number of countries around the world, including at festivals in South Africa, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Botswana, and Zambia. We’ve also screened at festivals in the US, the UK, France, Belgium, Russia, Australia, New Zealand, and the Netherlands, which is where we had our international premiere.”

Netflix has over 160 million subscribers across the globe. Screening on Netflix, for Zimbabwean filmmakers, is a big deal. Consequently, Cook Off will be the first Zimbabwe film to be on Netflix. Inasmuch as the date for the screening is yet to be announced, Njagu is still struggling to contain his joy. According to NewZimbabwe, he was quoted as saying,

“We’ll be announcing the release date very soon. We can’t wait to share this feel-good movie with the world. At first, we were worried about releasing it during the current pandemic but then decided that people might appreciate the distraction and entertainment.”

A sneak peek into Cook Off

Cook Off tells the compelling story of a single mother who is struggling to discover herself. When a cooking contest was announced on the television her son asks her to give it a shot. Taking the nudge a step further, her son and mother go behind her back to register her for the contest. It is a contest that professional chefs drop out in the second round. Without prior culinary knowledge, she has to fight with top chefs for a shot at the ultimate price.

Cook Off was written and directed by Tomas Brickhill. Some of the casts of the movie include Jessesi Mungoshi, Tendainashe Chitima, Chirikure Chirikure, and Eddie Sandifolo. Also starring in the movie is popular rapper Tendai Nguni. Reacting to the acquisition of the distribution right for the movie, Brickhill said,

“We are really proud of this achievement. This shows the talent and hard work every member of the cast and crew brought to this film. We know there is a wealth of talent in Zimbabwe, and we encourage our friends in the industry to keep creating. It is so important to maintain a high standard in the work that we do in order to attract international attention.”

A near-disaster averted

While the entire country is sending out congratulatory messages to the producer of the movie, what many didn’t know was that Cook Off was a near disaster. Inasmuch as the movie was a low-budget production, it drained the pocket of the producer. Consequently, they had to launch a crowdfunding campaign to raise $6,500 to cover the cost of marketing and distribution.

Perhaps, if not for the intervention of Netflix, Cook Off may have remained stuck in the studio. Netflix is expanding its footprint in Africa. However, as a filmmaker, getting the attention of the streaming giant is not an easy task. Brickhill said screening at international film festivals helped them to secure the distribution deal.

“Cook Off’ was selected to screen at a number of international film festivals—over 15, including Rotterdam, Seattle, Durban, Nairobi, and PAFF in Los Angeles. It really helped to give the film great exposure although we could not afford to go to all the festivals. We made some really helpful connections at the ones we attended and these helped us to secure the distribution deal.”

We are excited and can’t wait for the announcement of the screening date. One question still plagues our minds. What is the singular factor that is limiting African movies from reaching a global audience? Is it the quality of the story or the quality of the acting? Please share your thoughts with us in the comment box below.

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