Chief Zabu

Watch Chief Zabu

"An outrageous social comedy about a New York realtor who dreams of having political influence by taking over a new Polynesian nation."
  • R
  • 2016
  • 1 hr 15 min
  • 7.8  (87)

Chief Zabu is a politically charged satire that tells the story of the titular character, a clueless real estate developer played by Allen Garfield, and his bumbling attempts to buy land in a small Caribbean nation with the help of his sleazy business partner, Ben (Zack Norman). The film was directed by Neil Cohen and released in 1988, but didn't receive a wide release until 2016 due to financial constraints.

The movie opens with a shot of Chief Zabu, dressed in full tribal regalia, giving a pep talk to a group of businessmen about the importance of expanding their business into foreign markets. He's clearly out of his element, but his enthusiasm and charisma win over his audience. From there, we follow Zabu and Ben as they travel to the fictional island nation of Tiburaku in hopes of acquiring some prime beachfront property.

On the surface, Chief Zabu is a classic fish-out-of-water story, with Zabu and Ben struggling to navigate the unfamiliar culture and customs of Tiburaku. They're repeatedly taken advantage of by the locals, who see them as easy marks, and their plans are continually thwarted by bureaucratic red tape and shady business practices. However, the film also works on a deeper level as a satire of American imperialism and the corrupt business practices that often accompany it.

As Zabu and Ben work to acquire their land, they encounter a wide cast of characters, including the island's corrupt president (played by Allan Arbus), a conniving hotel owner (Marianna Hill), and a group of local activists who are outraged by the Americans' attempts to exploit their homeland. These characters are all portrayed with a sense of broad, over-the-top humor, but there's a kernel of truth to each of them that speaks to the film's larger themes.

Perhaps the most striking thing about Chief Zabu is its prescience. Made in the late 80s, the film was ahead of its time in its critique of American business practices and its prediction of the globalization that would soon follow. Watching it today, in the midst of the Trump era and the ongoing debate over immigration and foreign policy, it feels more relevant than ever.

Of course, Chief Zabu is not without its flaws. The film is unevenly paced, with some scenes dragging on too long while others feel rushed. Some of the performances also veer towards caricature, and the film's resolution feels a bit too neat and tidy for the complex issues it raises. However, these flaws are ultimately outweighed by the film's boldness and originality.

In conclusion, Chief Zabu is a satirical gem that deserves to be remembered for its sharp insights and fearless willingness to tackle complex political issues with humor and irreverence. It's a film that speaks to the power of outsider perspectives and the need to question the status quo. Even if it didn't receive the recognition it deserved upon its initial release, Chief Zabu stands as a testament to the enduring appeal of independent cinema and its ability to challenge our assumptions and push us out of our comfort zones.

Chief Zabu is a 2016 comedy with a runtime of 1 hour and 15 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 7.8.

Where to Watch Chief Zabu
Chief Zabu is available to watch, stream, download and buy on demand at Apple TV, Amazon, Google Play and Vudu. Some platforms allow you to rent Chief Zabu for a limited time or purchase the movie and download it to your device.
  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 15 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    7.8  (87)