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Alex Bedria; The Triple Threat

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Alexander Bedria’s The Zim takes home the prestigious Best of Fest award at the LA Shorts International Film Festival

 

Actor Alexander Bedria’s directorial debut The Zim, which he also wrote, took home the top prize when it recently premiered at LA Shorts International Film Festival. Almost 300 shorts were in contention for the award.

The Zim is the story of one man’s struggle to protect his farm and loved ones from a violent land invasion. Inspired by true events that occurred during the controversial Zimbabwean land seizures in the early 2000’s, The Zim follows the story of farmer Daniel Silva (Alexander Bedria) who must decide between fleeing the country or standing his ground. William Zimunya (native Zimbabwean Tongayi Chirisa), his farmhand, is torn between loyalty to his lifelong friend and fear of the powerful men who lead the charge to invade the farm.

“I was inspired by the men and women who endured extraordinary hardship, yet never lost their humanity. I hope the film honors them,” said writer/director Alexander Bedria who nearly five years researching, developing and crowdfunding the film.

As an actor, Bedria has displayed considerable range, recently guest starring on the Showtime series Ray Donovan and HBO’s The Newsroom. His acting credits also include: Scandal, Criminal Minds, 90210, CSI: Miami and The Amazing Spider-man.

We had the opportunity to interview this talented writer, actor and director.

 

1. You are a triple threat in the film industry, Actor, Director, and writer. Tell us how you started your journey as a film fanatic?


I’d say my love for movies began in early childhood. I remember seeing films like Superman: The Movie and Back to the Future when I was a little kid, and just becoming obsessed. It’s funny, I even remember feeling a little heartbroken when I discovered that movies were shot mainly out of sequence, and the music underneath the scenes was not actually recorded while the actors were performing. It’s all a bit like a magic trick.

2. The Zim is the story of one man’s struggle to protect his farm and loved ones from a violent land invasion which is inspired by true events. How did you come about this story and why did you want to write and direct a film about it?

Back around 2011, a friend who was living in Zimbabwe shared stories of the complicated history that inevitably lead to the land invasions. The conflict underneath the subject matter was so complex, I felt it would be a unique backdrop for a powerful story. There were a lot of themes that I wanted to explore within the context of the subject, like racial and national identity, family, violence, and humanity.  Also, a film has never been made about these events.

 

3. The film took you almost 5 years to develop, what are some of the struggles you came across in the developing stages and post-production?

Financing was a challenge, as we had to raise the money solely from crowdfunding for pre and post production. Anyone who’s been down that road can tell you it’s not an easy one! Finding the right location was also a long process, as it had to adhere to certain geographical and architectural specifications to match southern Zimbabwe. In the writing process, I’d say the challenge was creating a context and maintaining a sense of balance in the story between the two primary perspectives. The land invasions are still a sensitive topic for many, and I wanted to present a story that acknowledged the struggles of both parties. 

4. You didn’t only write or direct the film, you were one of the main actors. How did you time manage acting and directing the film?

 By the time principal photography came, I had already been living with the project – and the character – for around four years. I felt very prepared and was surrounded by an excellent team whose support was invaluable. I trusted that I was ready, and just went for it.


5. What do you hope viewers take away from the film?

I’d hope the audience is transported and moved by the film, also bringing thought to the themes explored. Our ancestral pasts are filled with injustices perpetrated by us and against us. The repetitive cycle of vengeance toward those we deem responsible for our suffering only seems to bring more pain. We see this across all cultures and nationalities throughout history. Taking a step back and looking at the whole picture is something to consider.

 

6. What most surprised you in the making of this film?

The many messages of support from native Zimbabweans, starting back when we announced our first crowdfunding campaign. By and large, people were excited to see this story being brought to the screen. Hearing from the real people who experienced these events reminded me of the responsibility we had to treat the story with care and balance.

7. What role have film festivals played in your life so far? Why are they necessary? How do you get the most out of them?

Since we have only just attended our first festival and have yet to screen at our next, I wouldn’t be able to answer this question fully. But since LA Shorts was our premiere, and we won its top prize, it has injected our little project with an unexpected momentum that I’m extremely grateful for.

8. With the film being entered into numerous film festival around the world and winning this year “Best of Fest” 2017 LA Shorts International Film Festival? Have you figured out what the audience wants? And how do you go about making films to bring to viewers attention?
 I do think it’s valuable to be mindful of your audience when you’re making a film, but this doesn’t mean you should try and figure out what they want. It just means understanding how to craft a project that would be suited for a festival – if that’s your goal – or for the internet, or wherever. There are technical ways of accomplishing these things. But ultimately, the story is what counts first. I believe that a filmmaker’s genuine passion for his story transcends the screen and the audience can sense it. Whatever part of the process I’m in, I just try to stay clear-headed and let my instincts be my compass. They tend to steer me in the right direction, even if I may stumble getting there.

9. How did you go about choosing the main leads in the film?

It was pretty clear once Tongayi (Chirisa) and I screen tested together that he was our guy. From the beginning, we had an easy rapport as lifelong friends would. You feel a genuine empathy toward Tongayi onscreen, which helps the audience connect with his character from the moment we see him. Also, he is a native Zimbabwean and was so helpful as a technical advisor that he became a co-producer. 

Shaun Baker, who plays the leader of the men invading the farm, is an actor I’ve known for years. Shaun is an incredibly powerful and committed artist, and I knew he’d bring an emotional honesty to the man. His performance hits the audience with a sledgehammer, but you still feel for him. It’s really extraordinary. 
 To round out our supporting cast, I was very lucky to have the help of Jessica Sherman, a wonderful casting director with many huge credits to her name.
10. What is next for Alexander Bedria
I’m busy working on a screenplay, meeting on some new film and television projects, and bringing The Zim to more festivals. Please visit www.thezimfilm.com to follow our social media and for an exciting announcement coming very soon!

Cast of the film Zim 

ALEXANDER BEDRIA – “Daniel Silva”

Alexander has regularly displayed considerable range, recently guest starring as the morally empty Marco on the Showtime series RAY DONOVAN and compassionate priest Phil on HBO’s THE NEWSROOM.

Additional television/film credits include: SCANDAL, 90210, PAPA, CSI: MIAMI, WHEN DUTY CALLS, TASTE OF ROMANCE.

He made his television debut on the CBS hit CRIMINAL MINDS and his feature debut in the Sony blockbuster THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN.

 

TONGAYI CHIRISA – “William Zimunya”

Well established in his homeland of Zimbabwe (and neighboring South Africa), Tongayi Chirisa has made an impact in Hollywood with memorable appearances on AMERICAN HORROR STORY and SLEEPY HOLLOW, and most recently on the Comedy Central/TV Land hit, GAFFIGAN.

Tongayi is also a co-producer and technical advisor on The Zim.

 

CONSTANCE EJUMA – “Aneni Zimunya”

Born in Cameroon, Constance’s work in theatre, film and television has allowed her to work with renowned artist and collaborate on projects that touch on humanitarian issues most dear to her heart. She has been featured in popular TV shows such as CRIMINAL MINDS: BEYOND BORDERS, 24, PROOF, and SCORPION. She starred in the critically acclaimed feature BEN & ARA, which she also produced.

 

SHAUN BAKER – “Wilson Matonga”

A prolific character actor with over three decades in the business, Baker was first seen in a memorable supporting role in the 90’s comedy smash HO– — USE PARTY, followed by a slew of major roles in network shows including IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT, WHERE I LIVE, and LIVING SINGLE. He also guest starred on the TV shows FAMILY MATTERS, CSI: MIAMI, THE DISTRICT, NYPD BLUE, MARTIN, and A DIFFERENT WORLD. He is perhaps best known for starring in the long-running series V.I.P.

 

AMANDA WING – “Cara Silva”

An actress of exceeding grace and steeliness, Amanda landed her feature debut in John Sayles southern epic SUNSHINE STATE, alongside Edie Falco, Angela Bassett, and Timothy Hutton. She will soon be seen as the lead in the genre-bending thriller ROAD TO RED as well as a supporting turn in the drama PLAY JAMES PLAY with C Thomas Howell. She remains true to her first love, the theatre, receiving both awards and published acclaim for her work in MILLFIRE, LADY FROM DUBUQUE, HAMLET, and GLASS MENAGERIE, and GOOD WOMAN OF SETZUAN.

 

CAROLINE LAGERFELT – “Emma”

Known to millions as Celia “CeCe” Rhodes on GOSSIP GIRL, and for her extensive film and TV credits, Caroline Lagerfelt has been a force in Hollywood since her emergence in the late 70’s. She also has distinguished herself in international theatre and Broadway. Caroline has been the recipient of Outer Critics Circle and Obie Awards, as well as a Drama Desk nomination.

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