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US Film With A Zimbabwean Touch

THE United States Embassy has capped its participation at this year Zimbabwe International Film Festival (Ziff) with something local.


One of the US entries at this year’s Festival is the film The Visitor whose cast includes Danai Gurira, a Zimbabwean.

“Danai represents the best of Zimbabwe and the United States,” says Paul Engelstad, public affairs officer at the US Embassy.

Danai Gurira was born in the United States and raised in Zimbabwe. A graduate of the local Chipawo Arts Academy based in Harare, Danai received her graduate degree in acting from New York University.

Ziff 2008 opens today until September 14 with venues being Elite and Vistarama in Avondale, the Zimbabwe Germany Society, the Alliance Francaise in Harare and Bulawayo, Young Africa Skills Center in Epworth and Chitungwiza, and Pakare Paye Arts Centre in Norton.

The US Embassy is supporting both the film and Danai’s attendance at the Festival, which will also include some speaking roles in various workshops organised by Ziff.

Danai first made waves in the play, In the Continuum, a critically acclaimed play that was performed in both Africa and the US. The play focused on the problem of Aids in African and African-American women and showcased the lives of two women living parallel lives in South Central, LA, and Harare, Zimbabwe.

She co-wrote the play with Nikkole Salter, her co-actress. In 2007, Gurira won the Helen Hayes Award for Best Actress in the play.

“We hope Danai will be able to engage Zimbabwean youth on her experiences in both the play and the film on a diverse range of issues including HIV and Aids,” said Engelstad.

The Visitor tells the story of an immigrant couple, Tarek and Esi (Haaz Sleiman and Danai Gurira), that is duped into renting an apartment from a friend even though it isn’t his.

The real owner, Professor Walter Vale (Richard Jenkins), shows up and strikes up a friendship with the couple. Tarek gets arrested for jumping a stuck subway turnstile, despite the fact that he had paid.

The police discover he does not have legal papers and transfer him to an immigrant detention centre in Queens. Walter decides to try and help him.

Tarek’s mother (Hiam Abbass) doesn’t hear from her son and shows up to find out what is going on. She meets the professor and they try to find a way to help Tarek.

It showcases the treatment of immigrants, post 9-11, and highlights the humanity that shows up when people come together to right a wrong and learn from each other.


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