Wow, I wish I could have alerted everyone I know to go see this documentary. I saw it last week (on its final day) at the Seattle International Film Festival. I hope it sees wide distribution soon.
The film is An African Election. You and your friends should request it on Netflix and press for U.S. distribution. It’s amazing.
The movie is about a power struggle, a struggle for democracy, in the fairly stable and economically rising West African nation of Ghana.
Contrary to what you might expect from its title (and your preconceptions about African politics), it’s not really an expose of corrupt politicians or another one of those films that makes you feel hopeless about Africa.
The election does turn out to be a messy business, with hints of corruption and attempted vote-rigging (kind of like a smaller, African version of Bush v Gore 2000), but An African Election ends up being one of the most thrilling, visceral and inspiring movies about politics I have ever seen.
It’s a success story. It makes you believe in democracy again.
Here’s a trailer:
The film was directed by Jarreth Merz, a Swiss born actor, director and producer who grew up in Ghana, Germany and Switzerland and speaks five languages fluently. I talked with Merz briefly at the Harvard Exit theater. He initially sought to document the 2008 Ghanaian presidential election and had no idea that his film would take on the qualities of a Hollywood thriller.
“Frankly, I thought it could be boring,” Merz said. Originally, he and his crew just figured it would be an informative documentary about one African nation where political stability today is the norm. “But then things started heating up… It was pretty hairy at times.”
I won’t go into the details. Suffice it to say I guarantee you will not be bored. Merz and his crew’s view of the power struggle was both on the streets and within the inner sanctum. At one point in the film, you can truly feel what it is like to be poised on the cliff edge of a civil war. It’s intense.
“Ghanaians have a very acute sense of politics,” said Merz. Ghana was the first African colonial state to gain independence in 1957, he said, and are avid protectors of their democracy.
Go see An African Election. Maybe it will even make us into avid protectors of our democracy.
NOTE: Merz says it will be released theatrically in Britain next fall. Educational institutions can request it through the Cinema Guild. But the best bet is for you to start making noise about wanting it released in the U.S. on Netflix, Facebook or whatever.