Two films in Sundance show Africa from the inside which is rare in these days when we are seeing events unfold in Africa from a Western point of view in the Sudan and the Ivory Coast. An African Election, directed by Jarreth Merz and playing in the World Cinema Documentary Competition after its IDFA premiere is a political documentary that exposes the never-before-seen, nitty-gritty of political electioneering in Africa.
It captures the intrigues of political campaigns; the almost carnival like atmosphere that is laced with fear of the unknown and the danger that lurks behind-the-scenes. As the opponents face off in this 2008 election in Ghana, a nation that has been Africa’s barometer of political stability, the viewer never knows whether peace or violence will prevail and in the end, still is left unsure about the legitimacy of the “democracy” and whether the people will fare better or life’s fortunes will continue to feel unfairly allocated as they have been since the country’s liberation from the British and of course, before.
Kinyarwanda is the first dramatic feature film conceived and produced by Rwandans, an extraordinary telling of the 1994 genocide by director/ writer Alrick Brown and cowriter/ producer Ishmael Ntihabose. Its particular and poignant interlacing of six stories leaves the viewer more than simply moved, one feels as if one has lived with the often real-life players through their fears, their love, their forgiveness and that one shares their hopes for a world where Islam, Christian, Animist and all religions can share the same land.
These are two uniquely told films, unlike any other films by or about Africans that we’ve seen.