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June 21, 2020

Netflix Movie 'Cook Off' Becomes First Zimbabwean Film on Streaming Platform — Inside Story of the Low-Budget Rom-Com

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Netflix’s movie “Cook Off” made history after becoming the first film from Zimbabwe to be broadcast on the streaming service.

The filming process of “Cook Off” began in 2017, only a few months before the Zimbabwean coup d’état made Robert Mugabe resign from the office of President of the country.

The film is a love letter to Zimbabwe.

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FILMING IN POOR CONDITIONS

Due to the difficult economic situation in the country, the initial budget for the movie was only $8,000. By itself, it is surprising.

However, when compared to other films distributed by the streaming giant ― like Sandra Bullock’s “Bird Box” ($19 million) and Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver’s “Marriage Story” ($18 million) ― the word “surprising” takes on a new meaning.

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Actress Tendaiishe Chitima, the principal star of the movie, opened up about the condition in which she and the rest of the cast of “Cook Off” worked during an interview with The Guardian.

She pointed out that it was nothing even similar to Hollywood productions where actors have their own trailers and access to different beverages. Instead, everything was “very minimalistic.”

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Apart from that, they didn’t have running water on set, so they had to gather water from a garden tap and boil it before drinking it. As per the filming per se, Chitima said that the scenes had to be completed in one or two takes.

However, their shooting days were constantly cut short due to a regular problem in the African country: power cuts.

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NETFLIX’S MOVIE “COOK OFF” WAS LOW BUDGET

Director Tomas Brickhill revealed that they shot most of the movie on the set of the Zimbabwean’s version of “Top Chef.”

According to Brickhill, they used everything from costumes to cooking pots that the now-defunct “Battle of the Chefs” used for their shows.

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Another difficulty in the filming process was the restriction on cash withdrawals in the country. The daily limit was only $20. For that reason ― and for the small budget ―, no member of the cast or crew were paid.

In fact, Chitima admitted that, as of May 31, 2020, they had not received any money for their work. However, the mere fact of seeing herself on Netflix fills her heart with joy.

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Netflix’s movie “Cook Off” tells the story of a single mother who was very passionate about cooking. Knowing this, her son enrolls her into a top reality cooking show.

During an interview that Tendaiishe Chitima had with AFP, she admitted to being grateful for having the opportunity to play an empowered woman who pursued what she wanted.

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“COOK OFF,” A LOVE LETTER TO ZIMBABWE

The actress also said that the roles that she used to land before “Cook Off” were those of maids, prostitutes, or a trafficked woman.

In a different interview with “In Conversation with Trevor,” Chitima pointed out that she felt as if the film is a love letter to Zimbabwe because it shows the essence of the Zimbabweans and the simple things that they go through daily.

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Apart from that, she considered that the film portrays very important values that Zimbabweans hold, being perseverance one of the main ones. Learning that Netflix had acquired the film has been the main highlight in Chitima’s career, as she said:

“There are so many barriers holding us back, and so many odds against us as African actors and filmmakers. But at that moment, it felt like we had broken through them all.”

Speaking of Netflix, the streaming giant was heavily criticized earlier this month after editing a scene of “Back to the Future II.” They decided to cut out a part that showed the cover of “Oh La La” magazine as a way to make it more PG.

The reason that made fans of the film so angry was that the edit was done in such a bad way that it was too evident.

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