Award-winning movie Cook Off has broken new ground by becoming the first Zimbabwean movie to show on Netflix as the heartfelt romantic comedy takes its place with other original African productions on the popular streaming site.
The heartfelt movie which was written and directed by Tomas Brickhill has reeled off a number of impressive achievements since its 2017 release and the Netflix gong has just become the latest milestone in its terrific run. Featuring an all-star heavyweight cast led by Tendai Chitima and rapper Tendai Nguni, popularly known as Tehn Diamond and Jesesi Mungoshi, the film that has brought much cheer in these trying times becomes our feature of the week.
The film follows the story of an aspiring chef, Anesu, played by Chitima who shoots to national fame after qualifying for a top reality TV cooking show; The Battle of the Chefs. The following events are a heartfelt story of romance, determination and overcoming challenges.
Zim-Abroad Magazine managed to catch up with the film’s producer, veteran film-maker Joe Njagu who shared a few insights on the journey and impact the movie has had since they commenced the project with Brickhill.
‘‘The journey of Cook Off has been a long one. We shot the film in 2017 and from the get go we knew that we wanted to try and make sure it reaches as far as we could push it. The entire cast and crew worked really hard to make it a masterpiece and as you know the standard film journey includes festivals, so we applied to as many festivals as we could to push the film and give it weight,” he said.
The year 2017 was an eventful one for Zimbabwe with significant changes taking place in the country but the production of the film pushed forward despite numerous challenges that arose amidst the economic crisis that prevailed in the country at the time.
“We always felt the Cook Off was something special and wanted it to do as well as possible. But with our modest resources, we had much more humble expectations of how far we could go with the film. It’s a real testament to the hard work of the entire team that we have managed to get this far. We are really excited to bring this story- which is a Zimbabwean tale that has resonated in festival screenings across the world and to a much wider audience,” writer and director Brickhill was qouted in a recent interview with GQ South Africa.
After overcoming the production challenges the film embarked on its charm offensive to the world and proved to be a critical success with various gongs such as the Best Feature and Best Actress at the Zimbabwe International Film Festival (ZIFF) with Chitima also winning Best Actress again at the NAMAs. The records continued tumbling as Cook Off became the first Zimbabwean film to be screened at the Rotterdam International Film Festival in 22 years and going on to show at other prestigious festivals such as Durban Film Festival, PAFF, Seattle Film Festival, Festival Du Cannes and the Cambria Film Festival in California where it scooped 2 international awards.
As Cook Off basks in its historic achievement and Zimbabwean audiences celebrate another home grown masterpiece’s presentation to the rest of the world Njagu reflected on how he felt when they secured the Netflix deal and embraces the challenge that follows.
“Man, to be honest, my reaction to all this wasn’t excitement but rather a sigh, like okay, now the real work begins. It is awesome and I would also like to point out that all this was made possible through collaborations at different stages from production to post. MMX Rentals, Area 46, Quite Bright Films, Eddie Ndhlovu, Zoe Flood and all these guys came in co-producing to get the film to the standard where it could be sellable on a global scale. This gave the production enough clout to be pushed to the big aggregators and it got us a deal.”
The film and television industry has been on a revitalized drive in the past decade and continues to soldier on with premium content in the face of various challenges and as the congratulations continue to pour in for the entire team behind the Cook Off film, we wait with baited breath for the Netflix premiere anytime now.