How Zim’s low budget movie Cook Off made it to Netflix

By Tatenda Marwodzi

Two weeks after the premier of Zimbabwean movie Cook Off on Netflix, it has become a fan favorite making its way to the most popular searches tab.

Produced during political unrest, a harsh economic environment, power cuts, no running water and a paltry production budget of $8000, Cook Off has defied the odds. “It was not a luxury shoot….Everything was very minimalistic. We had to get things right the first time,” confirmed lead actress Tendaiishe Chitima who plays Anesu, a young single mother from the ghetto who enters a cooking competition and falls in love in the process.

At the time of production, banks across the country were experiencing cash shortages which made it nearly impossible for the production team to access petty cash for refreshments. The budget was so constrained that the crew had to borrow a set and props from another show which was at the time airing on local television.

Director Tomas Brickhill also revealed that the cast agreed to sign contacts that deferred their paychecks. “Even though we did not have a big budget for this film, the cast and crew were total professionals throughout because we all shared the dream of how this film could go,” said producer Joe Njagu.

Brickhill and Njagu pushed against all odds to have the film featured at international festivals in places like Los Angeles, Durban, Seattle and Rotterdam even though they could not afford to attend all of them. Eventually the film gained popularity, scooped awards until it caught the attention of Netflix who later offered to buy the production. Thanks to this deal, the cast and crew will finally get their much anticipated pay checks.

Njagu hopes Zimbabwean and other African film makers will be inspired to produce international standard films despite economic hardships. “We know there is a wealth of talent in Zimbabwe, and we encourage our friends in the industry to keep creating,” he said. Viewers can find this riveting romcom on Netflix.

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