'Cook Off': Fans say Netflix's first Zimbabwean film is 'phenomenal', while others call it 'predictable'
The film released on Netflix on June 1, two and a half years after its release in Zimbabwe (December 31, 2017) and has opened to mixed reviews from viewers
Romantic comedy 'Cook Off' made history for becoming the first film from Zimbabwe on Netflix. The film revolves around Anesu, who is very passionate about food. However, she is also a single mother, working days on end to make ends meet for herself and her family. All of that changes when her son and grandmother sign her up for a reality cooking contest. The film released on Netflix on June 1, two and a half years after its release in Zimbabwe (December 31, 2017) and has opened to mixed reviews from viewers.
A viewer took to Twitter to commend the way Anesu's character was written and wrote, "Just finished watching Cook Off on Netflix great movie, phenomenal Love the concept of seeing a brilliant young lady as she is, not through the lenses of failure as most single mothers are often labeled in our culture #CookOffZim." Another wrote, "Just watched Cook off on Netflix. It had everything; a love story complete with unicorns. (By unicorns I mean African parents apologizing to their kids). Standard maZimba loved it. #CookOffZim."
Meanwhile, another viewer seemed less impressed with the film and wrote, "Cook off..... My Review. Predictable and would rate 'Wadiwa Wepamoyo' better than Cook Off. Well done to them for making it to Netflix but it’s a no for me." 'Wadiwa Wepamoyo' is a Zimbabwe drama and a couple of episodes are available to watch on YouTube. "Finished watching Cook Off on Netflix. I personally think they could have done better if they just used Shona havo. Chirungu chavo sounds so forced, it's so cringe (sic). I expected better. 'Wadiwa Wepamoyo' still remains the best show/movie to come out of zim for me," wrote another viewer who did not agree with the film being shot in the English language and would have much preferred it if it were in Shona, one of the official languages of Zimbabwe.
Actress Tendaiishe Chitima plays the character of Anesu in the film and she also won Best Actress at the National Arts Merit Awards of Zimbabwe in 2019. Chitima told AFP that she finds it surreal to see herself on Netflix and she still has to pinch herself to believe it. "It was not like a luxury shoot where you have your own trailer and you are big on wine," she said detailing her experience while shooting. She also mentioned that everything was "minimalistic" and termed the release as a "miracle" given the shooting conditions while also revealing that the cast and crew still await their paycheck.
Director Tomas Brickhill revealed that the starting budget of the film was a meager $8,000 and major portions were shot on the sets of 'Battle of the Chefs: Harare', Zimbabwe's version of 'Top Chef'. "We used the costumes, the set, the cooking pots of Battle of the chefs," confessed director Tomas Brickhill, referring to a program now no longer airing. "Without that, there would not have been any movie." As per AFP, the daily budget for the shoot was $20, which was not enough to buy a bottle of water since the country was crippled by hyperinflation. There was also no source of running water on set and the crew had resorted to drinking boiled water from a garden tap. There were also a lot of power cuts on sets and the team was forced to take out a chunk of the budget and invest it in the purchase of a generator.
Despite all those challenges, the film had released on time in Zimbabwe and you could catch it on Netflix by clicking here.