Keimena #32: Le Président (The President)
by Jean-Pierre Bekolo

Monday July 24, 2017, 24:00 on ERT2
Le Président (The President), 2013, Cameroon/Germany, 63 min.
Director: Jean-Pierre Bekolo

The President, by Jean-Pierre Bekolo, is a witty, poetic, and humorous take on the ugly reality of power in postcolonial Africa. States ruled by men who cling to power, craving immortality. Men like Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, Angola’s José Eduardo dos Santos, or Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo. Under their omnipotent rule, even to imagine a state after them is a crime.

The task Bekolo takes upon himself in The President is to make visible that which is unimaginable. He presents the unthinkable, and gives form to what might come after.

It is a film about the disappearance of a long-serving African president on the eve of an election. Journalists, rappers, and prisoners deliver the narrative. Deliberating on possible futures after the passing of the incumbent, they pose the critical question “How do you know when it’s time to leave?” The film takes us into the president’s thoughts. He dreams of his demise, or of a rendezvous with his deceased wife.

The similarity to Cameroon’s President Paul Biya, who has ruled since 1982, is unmistakable. The President was banned in the country upon its release, and Bekolo chose self-exile to avoid the leader’s wrath. The President is a subtle prediction of a destiny that not even dictators like Ivory Coast’s Félix Houphouët-Boigny or Gabon’s Omar Bongo could escape, with predictable consequences for their countries.

When the future is unimaginable, the audacity and savvy of projects like The President are required to keep one’s sanity.

—Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung, Curator documenta 14

Posted in Public TV on 07.24.2017