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Zimbabwe court lifts ban on acclaimed documentary film

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Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe watches a video presentation during the summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in 2008 REUTERS/Mike Hutchings/File Photo

Zimbabwe's High Court has lifted a ban on an acclaimed documentary film that portrays former president Robert Mugabe in a far from flattering light.The film,The Democrats, by Danish filmmaker Camilla Nielsson, was made in the aftermath of Zimbabwe’s violent and disputed 2008 elections.


It tells the story of Zimbabwe’s fraught constitution-making process.

But Zimbabwe’s censorship board never allowed the film to go on sale or to be screened in the country.

Rights lawyer Bellinda Chinowawa told RFI it took a year and a half to get this High Court ruling.

She called it a great victory for all Zimbabweans.

The film captures the fraught process when politicians from both the opposition and the ruling party engaged in intense negotiations to write a new constitution.

They started in 2010 and the draft was eventually adopted by a referendum in 2013.

To begin with the film’s production company, Upfront Films, was given the green light to make the documentary about the constitutional-making process.

But when it was finally released -- to international acclaim in 2015 -- Zimbabwe’s censorship board ruled that it wasn’t suitable for local audiences.

The censors never revealed why they had banned the film, they are not forced to by law.

It is believed though that supporters of Robert Mugabe – who was then president -- felt it depicted him wrongly as a dictator.

Mugabe is no longer in power and now Zimbabweans have a chance to make up their own minds about the film – and their former president.