Saturday, January 13, 2024

REVIEW: Bobi Wine: The People's President

The corruption of African leaders has almost become a cliché since the post-colonial democratization of the continent's various nations. But unfortunately, there's some truth to this stereotype, as evidenced by the case of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. His stranglehold on the country is documented in an extraordinary new film "Bobi Wine: The People's President" directed by Moses Bwayo and Christopher Sharp. 

"Bobi Wine: The People's President" is the story of its titular character, who mounts a daring campaign to unseat Museveni and chart a new course for his homeland. He is a man who wears several hats - loving family man, successful musician and now, beloved politician. Taking advantage of his pre-existing fame of his music career and his humble background (the film's previous title referred to him as "Ghetto President"), he quickly finds favour with the general populace as a man of the people. And within a few years, his political trajectory takes him from elected parliament member to presidential candidacy. But in a society where free and fair elections are a lofty dream, his ambitions seem futile and increasingly dangerous despite his rising popularity.

That sense of danger is quickly felt in "Bobi Wine: The People's President", as Bwayo and Sharp plunge audiences into the thick of the struggle. As we witness gunshots being fired in the streets, the intensity may cause you to flinch instinctively. The camerawork is truly incredible throughout, and the access afforded the filmmakers makes the film all the more involving. 

From the heated parliamentary debates, to the infectious energy of the campaign trail, to the more quiet moments at home, we are treated to the full scope of Bobi Wine's daily life. And by his side is Barbie, a Winnie Mandela of sorts who remains steadfast to the cause amid her husband's undue arrests and threats to his life. Meanwhile, the film smartly allows Musaveni to contribute his perspective in his own words, including dubious media interviews which further prove his dictatorial regime.

While unfettered power is the film's main theme, "Bobi Wine: The People's President" could just as easily be viewed as a love story. Most obviously, there's the love between Bobi Wine and his family. But more significantly, the film displays the patriotic love that drives him despite the seemingly impossible task. As such, the film leaves viewers with a suprising sense of optimism, pointing to the embryonic but hopefullly fruitful seeds of a revolution that was indeed televised.

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