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Review: Bobi Wine: The People’s President. A powerful wake-up call

  • Release year: 2022
  • Director: Moses Bwayo and Christopher Sharp.
  • Producers: John Battsek and Christopher Sharp.
  • Editor: Paul Carlin.
  • Cinematographer: Sam Benstead, Moses Bwayo and Michele Sibiloni.
  • Music by: Dan Jones.

Synopsis: biographic documentary about Bobi Wine, a Ugandan singer who gets into politics to change the dictatorial regime that his country has been suffering for over three decades.

Shotgun Commentary: heartbreaking story about social injustice and the reality of where political powers put money into.

Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu (standing on roof of the vehicle) campaigns in Butaleja district in the country’s East. Source: Bobi Wine: The People’s President (Moses Bwayo and Christopher Sharp, 2022). Photo credit: Lookman Kampala.

Review

Bobi Wine: The People’s President follows Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, alias Bobi Wine, since he enters the world of politics until the aftermath of the 2021 Ugandan elections. During this time, the audience can follow his struggles and victories. Nothing is censored, except for the blurring of bloody body parts and corpses.

This story is not only relevant to showcase the reality of a country and criticise its functioning. It is a wake-up call for the US and EU governments. The documentary doesn’t only educate European and American audiences about the realities of this part of the world. It illustrates the kind of person that the governments of these developed areas are giving money to.

The villain

Yoweri Museveni is a dictator that likes to disguise his military regime as a democracy. This decision is not due to shame, as one might think, but to keep receiving financial help from other countries. An aid that, given the stale state in which Uganda has been during his 35 years of presidency, is presumably going to his and his friend’s pockets.

Bobi walking in the ghetto. Source: Bobi Wine: The People’s President (Moses Bwayo and Christopher Sharp, 2022). Mandatory photo credit: Southern Films).

While there have been many authoritarian regimes throughout history all over the world, it is still a mystery how people like that can sleep at night. A mystery, that is, until you watch his interviews during the documentary. This content makes you realise the state of absolute delusion that he is in. So convinced by his own lies, that he doesn’t even notice the nonsense that is coming out of his mouth.

For people with limited knowledge of Ugandan history, it might come as a surprise to find out that Museveni was once an activist for the people. It is always incredibly intriguing to study how people who fight for their country can get so corrupted that they become that which they fought. There are many films and TV shows about it, but seeing a real-life case hits completely differently.

The great unknown

Another one of the big unknowns is the military and police’s behaviour. There are bullies everywhere, and they get handsomely paid to keep people in a state of terror. However, up to a point, they are people too, meaning they must have feelings. No matter how much they are getting paid, it can’t be enough to make them forget that they are part of the society they are helping oppress.

Bobi Wine in a police arrest van after he was arrested in Luuka district, Eastern Uganda. Source: Bobi Wine: The People’s President (Moses Bwayo and Christopher Sharp, 2022). Photo Credit: Lookman Kampala.

It would be fascinating to explore exactly what is the hiring process, the training and the working conditions of the people that form these forces. Transforming an oppressed member of society into the oppressor is a process worth studying from the psychological point of view. Regrettably, the only part of these forces that are seen during the film are the already brainwashed individuals. They abuse, torture and kill unarmed, peaceful civilians for daring to express their beliefs. Or simply because they look at them funny, really.

Be that as it may, there is always hope that, like Bobi Wine says, there will come a time when they realise that they are helping oppress themselves and turn to the side of the people.

The hero

As for Bobi Wine, it is tricky to determine his part in the story. Undoubtably, he is a brave man who is willing to fight for what is right, despite the abuse that he and his advocates suffer due to it. He is going against a force a lot more powerful than him. This makes his battle a losing cause unless some of the forces at play change their allegiance. It is his faith in humanity and his will to do what is right that drives him to keep going. Wine sets an incredible example of how good humanity is capable of being.

Bobi visiting the ghetto. Source: Bobi Wine: The People’s President (Moses Bwayo and Christopher Sharp, 2022). Mandatory photo credit: Southern Films.

Nevertheless, it is uncertain how this situation of constant survival might shape him in the years to come and, while he will hopefully end Museveni’s reign, it is unclear whether his ruling will be better since, as Wine himself explained, Museveni was just like him at his age.

Not a production for the faint-hearted

The shooting and editing of this documentary shies away from nothing. It showcases loud and clear what is going on in Uganda, utilising both original footage and pieces of footage from different news outlets and from witnesses of the events.

The combination of these particular sources to bring the story to life allows for different points of view of the occurrences, even Museveni’s. This provides the most complete picture possible of a situation whose absolute truth is impossible to know.

A worried Bobi Wine. Source: Bobi Wine: The People’s President (Moses Bwayo and Christopher Sharp, 2022). Mandatory photo credit: Southern Films.

The content is raw and shakes anyone with a bit of humanity to their core. It is a crucial story that needed to be told, and it will destroy your mood for the rest of the day, which is further proof of how messed up and wrong the whole situation is.

Advice to take from this movie:

  • Human beings are capable of horrible things and should be extinct at this point.
  • Human beings are capable of selfless bravery that inspires others to do and be better.
  • If you are not going to respect free elections, don’t call your dictatorship anything but.
Bobi and Barbie hugging. Source: Bobi Wine: The People’s President (Moses Bwayo and Christopher Sharp, 2022). Mandatory credit: Southern Films.

What’s your take? Have you watched Bobi Wine: The People’s President? Do you think anything will change as a reaction to the documentary? Don’t hesitate to let me know your thoughts in the comments section below, or leave a message in my contact page! For more reviews and cinema-related articles, check out the rest of my blog! 😀

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