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Looking for Mercy

Details and purpose of the documentary: The documentary I watched


was called 'Looking for Mercy'. It was released in 2012. There is no
specific intended audience for this documentary. When the film maker,
Robyn Paterson, planned to make this film, her main aim was to find
her friend, Mercy. What she didn't realise was that throughout the
process of the film, she had overcome human barriers such as racism
and violence. Robyn successfully managed to get the main message of
the documentary across; friendship has no racial boundaries.

Prior knowledge of the subject: I heard about racial segregation under


the dictatorship of the current president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe
from my friend who has been a victim of this. Before watching the
documentary, I expected to see the journey Robyn was going to take to
find Mercy. The subject of the documentary is humanity and racism. A
question I had about the subject was to see if this actually happened in
the country Zimbabwe.

Summary: The documentary is about a girl named Robyn who grew up


in Zimbabwe. It was once the country with the most promissing future
in Africa. In the 1980s Robyn and her best friend, Mercy, were held up
as poster children for the new independent Zimbabwe. Robyn is pale
skinned and Mercy is dark. The girls were a symbol that all was well in
the independent nation. They knew each other since nursery school
and they both did everything together. In the film Robyn calls her
Mercy but that isn't her real name.

When they were eight years old, the most powerful man came to their
town. Robert Mugabe was their hero. Robyn was chosen to put flowers
around his neck. Before Mugabe, under Ian Smith, only whites were
allowed to vote though they totalled 2% of the population. The racism
rised to hatred and years of bloody civil war. Mugabe emerged a leader
when finally independence brought peace and liberation, but their hero
immediately began a brutal campaign against an opposition.

His first target was the ndebele people, Mercy's people. Thousands of
civillians were being beaten and killed. Robyn's family went to live in
Newzealand, but Mercy's family had no choice. The two friends lost
contact with each other. Robyn always kept the picture Mercy gave her
on the day she left. Over the years she tried to find her online but she
never succeeded. She didn't even know if she was alive. She never
stopped thinking about Mercy and needed to know what happened to
her best friend. She also needed to know what happened to the great
new Zimbabwe what they believed in and thought they represented.

She decided to go back to Zimbabwe to find Mercy. She asked for


advice to some of those who had to escape. She was scared she will
get other people in Zimbabwe into trouble in search for her friend. She
went to Zimbabwe pretending she was a tourist so she wouldn't be
questioned. Over the last few decades, Zimbabweans have been
flooding across the border into South Africa escaping political violence
and desperately hoping to find work. Her friend Oibre left the country
four years ago after his family's firm was ceased by the government.

Before Robyn and her friends from Newzealand, Jake and Peter crossed
into Zimbabwe, they sealed their camera gears as bag searches on
border post are common. Her friends were questioned by a police
officer. It was only their second day in the country and they had to
leave quickly. The place where Robyn last saw Mercy was in Bulawayo
where her mother grew up. The name Bulawayo means the killing
place. A human rights survey found that over 80% of people in
Bulawayo have had first hand experience of torture. After Bulawayo
she travelled to the national park - where her and Mercy grew up.

They then went to Gweru, her home town. They were told not to film
there at all, but that was where she last saw Mercy and where she
hoped to find her. She said the last time she saw her was in 1996 and
she was doing teacher training. She then went to her old school hoping
they may hold records of Mercy's parents and past addresses. She
went into the school office but couldn't tell anyone they were filming
because it was too risky. The principal told her they destroy the records
after 9 years. In the last letter she received from Mercy she was
excited at the prospect of becoming a teacher. She went to the local
college where she guessed she had trained. They searched records but
there was no luck.

She then decided to travel north to the capital city Harare. She has
family friends there who may be able to help. A police man arrived with
information which included details about the last three generations of
Mercy's family and where she's living now but she was anxious about
trusting him. She gave money to him to find her since he seemed to
have all the information. The police man accompanied them to Mercy's
house. They had to be extra careful that he didn't see the camera or
micro phones as it is a country where it's very dangerous to film. They
went to Kwekwe. They drived there for 6 hours but there was no sign.
The police man got out of the car when they came to the end of the
road, and he went to search. He came back after half an hour and told
them he had found Mercy's family and they told him Mercy is dead
after a long illness. He also told them she had one son.

Robyn didn't know what to do next. She wanted to talk to Mercy's


family herself but had to find a safe way to get back there. She grew
up with her best friend who is no longer alive and she could be. One
cameraman, Peter, decided to go back home to New Zealand as it was
too dangerous. Robyn took the bus to Bulawayo. She went back to the
family and showed them a picture of Mecy who told her that she isn't
her and that they weren't Mercy's family. The police man was wrong.
Mercy has one of the most common surnames in Zimbabwe - Sibanda.
She went to the phone book as she didn't have much time left. After
two days of making phone calls, she finally got a break. She thinks she
found the correct number. Mercy's father answered the phone but he
didn't recognise Robyn's name. They went to Geura where she hoped
to see Mercy the next day. When they reached the house she realised
the man wasn't Mercy's father but her uncle. Her uncle told her she
was at a church so she made her way there. She couldn't find her
there. She said it was likely Mercy went to South Africa so she went to
pick up her search there.

She asked a few people for Mercy when she got there, but she found
that people were desperate to tell their own stories. A sixteen year old
who just escaped one of Mugabe's camps told his story of why he left
Zimbabwe and moved to Africa. He said they were taught how to use a
gun and how to torture people. Robyn had to go back to Newzealand
now and she had to face the reality that her friend could have been in
Africa, anywhere there. Six months after returning home, she found it
hard to let the search go. Her daughter was the age of her and Mercy
when they met and watching her play with her friends was a constant
reminder of the connection that her and Mercy once had.

Robyn kept in touch with people in Zimbabwe in hope she would get
some news. She finally got good news from Sam in Gwero. They think
they have tracked down Mercy's mother who remembers Robyn well.
She told Sam that Mercy is living in Australia and she let her know that
Robyn is looking for her. Robyn finally got to talk to Mercy on the phone
and she told her she was going to come to Australia to meet her. With
Mercy's family still back home, she asked that her face is not revealed
on camera. Mercy fulfilled her dream of becoming a teacher. She said
to Robyn "those who meet once in life will meet again". The struggle in
their country is not black versus white, but the Mugabe region against
the people.

Interviews: The documentary is filmed in Zimbabwe, Newzealand and


America. The images were very sharp. There was an interview with
Robyn and the police man when he was offering to take her with him to
find Mercy. Robyn was very lucky nothing had happened to her by
trusting the police man.

Personal comments and recommendation: My favourite moment is


when Robyn has all of the flashbacks of her childhood with Mercy. I
learned quite a few interesting things but one main thing that stood
out to me from watching the documentary is that if you are
determined to accomplish something, no one can stop you. Robyn
successfully managed to achieve her aim in the end with her
determination and found her friend. There were a few things that
surprised me. It surprised me to hear that over seven million
Zimbabweans are living outside the country. I was also shocked by the
life expectancy for women in Zimbabwe now that is just thirty two and
unemployment in Zimbabwe also surprised me as it is estimated to be
betweeen seventy and ninety percent. I would definitely recommend
this documentary to my friends as it overcomes human barriers and
relevant issues.