Friday, 25 November 2011

Little White Lies Review: An African Election

(Originally published on Little White Lies)

Barely distinguishable political parties, colourful characters, dodgy rhetoric, corruption and fake smiles… It must be election time again. Although this might sound like a familiar scenario, any comparisons with British or US politics are purely coincidental. This is the lead up to the 2008 Ghanaian democratic elections, during which filmmaker siblings Jarreth and Kevin Merz goes behind the scenes to document the political to-ing and fro-ing of the leading parties and the battle for domination that ensues.

A solidly structured approach to the very slippery subject of democracy, An African Election relies on the natural build up of tension and anticipation in the lead up to the electoral contest. The New People’s Party have been in office for eight years, and the National Democratic Congress, the more left-leaning opposition, want to knock them off their perch.

On the streets and in the workplace, Ghanaians just want more jobs, greater access to healthcare and education, and increased food production. Each party is willing to promise whatever it takes to convince the population to put the X next to them on the ballot paper.

 Merz and Merz has assembled a colourful cast for this anatomy of an election, from the two opposition leaders themselves to academics, journalists, party reps and everyday folk. As the big day approaches, tensions start to mount between the parties and their supporters, with intimidation and violence on the cards. This is when An African Election, which at points can be a bit saggy, really starts to up the ante and draw viewers in.

When a person is willing to stand in line for 12 hours to vote in a process underpinned by controversy, it’s hard not to root for them. Real democracy would aid progress not only in Ghana, but Africa as a whole. Although it can be a bit heavy handed at times, this is a well-balanced and carefully constructed window onto a world that is struggling to improve itself.

Anticipation: Good festival buzz for a doc that promises an insider’s view. 3

Enjoyment: Great access to a wide range of key players, but the drop in pace makes for a slow mid-section before the election itself ramps up the tension. 3


In Retrospect: Timely and balanced, this is a great insight into an otherwise closed process, but would it be more at home on TV? 3

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