Posted November 22, 2011 by Chris Patmore in Films

An African Election

Politics is all about lying and deceit or, more specifically, getting into power and staying there.

Politics is all about lying and deceit or, more specifically, getting into power and staying there.

It could be said there is more deception with a so-called democratic government than there is with autocratic one. There is no doubt that elections bring out the worst in people, candidates selling their souls in exchange for votes and a taste of power. However, as any realist (cynic) will tell you “If voting really changed anything, they wouldn’t let us do it.” This has never been more true than in the US, which is essentially run by the banks and corporations, while trying to spread their brand of democracy around the world. The general apathy towards elections in the Western world is mostly down to fact that the public can see through the facade and is fed up with being lied to. There are no longer statesmen, whose vision looks forward to the generations ahead but merely politicians who are only concerned with the next election. And let’s face it, elections are dead boring.

Bearing all this in mind, why would we want to watch a documentary about an election in Africa? Ghana is one of the more stable and wealthy nations in Africa. It does not have the dubious reputation of some of its neighbours, which does not make for very interesting viewing. In the first hour of the film, we find out relatively little about candidates, their parties or their policies. It was almost like a People’s Front of Judea/Judean People’s Front situation (minus the debate about Stan’s right to have a womb) as the parties’ initials became confusingly indistinguishable after a while.

What is interesting is the enthusiasm with which the Ghanians approach their elections, many of them starting to queue at 3 in the morning to cast their vote (something we only do for a game or technology release). The other interesting aspect of their elections is that the winner not only has to gain a majority but that majority has to be over 50% of the votes. That means that by the end of the first hour we discover that neither of the two leading candidates got enough votes to pass the 50% mark so another election had to called. This is where it started to heat up, with accusations and counter accusations of cheating, which lead to some outbreaks of violence but nothing on the scale of what was seen this year in North Africa.

The trouble with this film is at no point do you care about any of the candidates or their coterie. The only person of any gravitas was the outgoing president. The film lacked any real tension, or sense of injustice that made Mugabe and the White African such a gripping watch. Dogwoof have certainly had a great run of fantastic cinema-released, feature documentaries that address vital issues with passion and insight but this one feels more like a TV news doc. With films about the Arab Spring already doing the rounds of film festivals, this one feels slightly irrelevant, because not only is it already two years out of date, it isn’t of massive international importance.

Chris Patmore