Born in 1948 in Cairo and grown up in Harare, Zimbabwe Michael Raeburn is one of the most versatile and renowned filmmakers of Zimbabwe. Like many others of his colleagues he had to leave the country for several times living in the Diaspora, due to the Zimbabwe’s long and chequered history.
His work as a film director ranges from feature to documentary film, which investigates by examples of micro-social or micro-economic changes the big switches of postcolonial societies in Africa or in the so-called Third World in general. Quite early yet as a student in 1969 he questioned and criticized the apartheid system of Ian Smith’s Rhodesia, opposing it publicly and through the release of his first film „Rhodesia Countdown“. As a consequence he had to leave the country for the first time continuing his studies in Paris and London. But besides working as critical filmmaker Raeburn started as a novelist as well. His book “Black Fire” from 1978 is based on interviews with Zimbabwean freedom fighters offering a profound insight into the background and circumstances of the 15 years long liberation struggle. Two years later, shortly after the birth of the nation of Zimbabwe and at the beginning of the government of Robert Mugabe, Raeburn returned. Zimbabwe became a role model for modern African nations. Its spirit of optimism and its euphoric atmosphere in the first decade of independence was also documented in Raeburn’s feature film “Jit”. However in the middle of the 1990s the situation of the country turned again as the economic conditions of the country were becoming increasingly tense. Historical and ethnic sores started to get reopened again and the raising political and social repressions finally became unbearable. Startled by this Raeburn reacted with his documentary “Zimbabwe Countdown” in 2003 – and better left for a second time.