If Africa had such a thing as a ‘girl next door’, Tendaiishe Chitima who plays Anesu, in Cook Off would be just that. Such an effortless beauty, I was immediately drawn to her radiant smile. This is just one of the ingredients (pun intended) that gives the movie a warm and fuzzy feeling.
‘Cook Off’ tells the story of a struggling single mother who, without her knowledge, is entered into a cooking competition; ‘Battle of the Chefs’ (Zimbabwe’s version of ‘Top Chef’) by her son, Tapiwa (Eugine Zimbudzi) and her grandmother, Gogo (Jesesi Mungoshi).
Packed with all the usual drama that accompanies cooking competitions; high-pressured timed challenges, rude and obnoxious judges, arrogant contestants and that one over-zealous contestant we all love to hate, the script is already primed for success.
Not sure if it was deliberate or not to have the film showcases a cast of beautiful dark skinned actors. It’s not uncommon to see colorism play out in film casting so this was a welcomed changed.
I already mentioned Tendaiishe’s beauty, but I’m sure the ladies will find her co-star (Tehndai Ryan Nguni) who plays Prince, equally as attractive. Reminiscent of Tyrese with his chocolate brown skin and glowing bald head, and just like Tyrese, he is also a musician turned actor. More commonly known as a rapper Tehn Diamond, I listened to his 2015 track ‘Year before Rap on Youtube and it is really good. The on-screen romance with Anesu though, is a bit stiff and awkward at times, but not a bad overall performance.
Celebrated for its milestone as Zimbabwe’s first feature length film on Netflix. it is extra special because Cook Off was made from a relatively shoestring budget. Zimbabwe’s film industry (locally referred to as a film community due to its small size ), has been plagued by years of political and economic instability, so being able to produce a film to be featured on the world stage is a great achievement.
Written and directed by Tomas Brickhill, who incidentally got the idea for the story while directing season 3 of the actual cooking show the film is based on; ‘Battle of the Chefs’. It would appear that Tomas ended up shooting a simple script that works well with what he had available.
Using the costume and some of the equipment from the now defunct show, he was able to further save on production costs and still deliver a really good film. Apparently the cast and crew were not paid throughout production either and all agreed to be compensated only after the film became successful.
This is just a few of the challenges a lot these African film productions go through in order to deliver a movie. So a major shout-out to the entire cast of this film for making it happen.