A film that screened during FESPACO 2013 (not in Official Selection, but at the Goethe Institut of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso), and which has effectively been banned in the filmmaker’s country (Cameroon) due to content that’s critical of the government, Jean-Pierre Bekolo’s latest film, Le President (The President), has been picked up by African video-on-demand platform Buni TV (www.buni.tv, a service of Buni Media, the production company behind The XYZ Show, Kenya’s hit political satire show with an audience of 10 million), which will thankfully make the film widely-available.
In short, Cameroonian authorities didn’t approve of the film’s seemingly daring, incendiary plot, which sees the film’s fictional president disappear a few days before elections (offering commentary on the country’s real-life president, Paul Biya, who has been in power for more than 30 years).
In the film, a mockumentary, which I have seen and will review shortly, Bekolo essentially challenges the status quo, asking critical questions of government, dictatorship, ailing presidents, highlighting stories of succession, independence and transformation, to make his point.
The film’s official synopsis reads:
The night before an important summit in the near-future, the head of state vanishes into ostensibly thin air. Potential heirs and overthrowers converge around the capitol, while bloggers, hangers-on and talking heads tussle with the president’s problematic legacy. Never snarling, Bekolo gestures both unmistakably towards Cameroon’s own 31-year president Paul Biya as well as the varied bigshots across the continent who have consolidated post-colonial power in the vacuum of leadership.
Bekolo’s filmography is made up of bold, unconventional, challenging material like the last film he made – the genre-busting, sci-fi, vampire political satire, Les Saignantes, or The Bleeders, which is set in the year 2025, and follows 2 high-class prostitutes, who use their sexuality to gain access to some of the highest ranking political officials in Cameroon, supposedly with the intent to rid the country of those corrupt men who have run Cameroon for decades, creating this dystopian society as presented in the film.
It’s a heavily stylized flick, and while Le President isn’t quit as stylish, it’s just as challenging and critical of government – maybe more directly so.
The film will be available for free (that’s right, free!) at www.buni.tv for one week, starting on October 12, and will be later re-released under the platform’s upcoming subscription service.
“One of the great advantages of the internet is that it can circumvent censorship,” said Buni TV CEO Marie Lora-Mungai. “Buni TV wants to play a role in fostering and supporting the free flow of ideas in Africa. When we learned that Jean-Pierre was not able to screen The President in Cameroon, we felt it was our responsibility to help this important film reach its audience.”
Check out the trailer and poster below: