Cook Off is the first-ever Zimbabwean film to be featured on Netflix. Made with a very low budget, it is a romantic comedy with a story on resilience and hope.
Cook Off is about a Zimbabwean woman named Anesu, a single mother trying to make ends meet. She has a passion for cooking but never got around to pursuing it.
But when her son and grandmother signed her up for reality cooking contest, things turned upside down for her.
The film stars actress Tendaiishe Chitima who is still in disbelief with the news of their movie being acquired by the streaming giant.
“Seeing myself on Netflix, I have to punch myself every day. Like, is that really me?” asked Chitima.
For Chitima, the acquisition of Netflix was a “miracle” considering that Cook Off is a low-budget film with unstable filming conditions. But it has been given the chance to premiere to a global audience and everyone involved with it is head over heels.
The film-making background
What makes the Zimbabwean film very inspiring is that it was not made like that of Hollywood projects.
Sources reveal that their starting budget to make the film was just $8,000. They also shot the scenes in 2017, just months before the fall of ex-president Robert Mugabe’s term.
According to Chitima, filming the movie was a struggle that they had to conquer. She recalls how it was far from a luxury shoot and there was no own trailer while on film location.
“Everything was very minimalistic. We had to get things right the first time or the second time,” Chitima said.
Director Tomas Brickhill also shared that there was a restriction on cash withdrawals at that time, which made it difficult for them to source some money.
“Every day we had to source cash,” he said in an interview with AFP. On top of that, their budget barely covered the food expense for the crew while on set.
THANK YOU everyone for all the love, support and beautiful messages ♥️ !!! I am so stoked for the entire @CookOffZim cast and crew who worked hard for us to come this far!🥳🇿🇼🥂 #netflixzimbabwe #netflix #CookOffZim pic.twitter.com/SbedXOiKLs
— Tendaiishe Chitima (@Tendai_Chitima) June 1, 2020
Working with a $20 limit daily, Brickhill said that other people think that they were crazy. They didn’t even have running water on set so they had to be resourceful and used boiled water from a garden tap.
Shot on Top Chef
Another trivia from the film is that it was shot on the set of Zimbabwe’s version of Top Chef.
The reality cooking show was no longer airing on public broadcaster ZBC. So they took advantage of the studio as well as the costumes and cooking pots of Battle of the Chefs.
Brickhill said, “Without that there would not have been any movie.”
Despite the challenges, they wrapped up the film without losing its magic and positive vibes. Chitima hopes to star in big-budget productions in the future.
“A role in which I could play an empowered character pursing what she wanted was for me a great opportunity,” Chitima said. “The movie shows the other side of our story. That we are resilient and have dreams.”
Featured image courtesy of CookOffTheMove/Youtube screenshot