President is Danish director Camilla Nielsson’s masterful political thriller about stealing elections. In the aftermath of Donald Trump and his ramblings about election fraud, it is timely to take a look at where such a situation can lead in a country where “democracy” only exists as discourse copied from English bureaucratic jargon.
Following previous work documenting Zimbabwe’s political landscape, Nielsson returns to the Southeast African country to document its 2017–2018 presidential elections. She has created an important and exciting piece.
Many remember Zimbabwe from Bob Marley’s song of the same name, which praised the country’s revolution. ”Mash it up in-a Zimbabwe, Africans a-liberate Zimbabwe.” The song has since faded in popularity, as the revolutionary hero, Robert Mugabe, turned out to be a brutal tyrant. Mugabe abused his power as head of the Zimbabwean government for 37 years. Marley did not live to witness this.
The film begins when Mugabe’s right-hand man, Emerson Mnangagwa, has seized power and claims to be organizing “free” elections. The young opposition candidate and people’s favourite, Nelson Chamisa, thinks his opportunity has come.
Despite challenging circumstances, Nielsson’s skilled film crew – cinematographer Henrik Bohn Ipsen and editor Jeppi Bødskov – manage to piece together a visually stunning film, which captures critical political developments, leading to an inevitable conclusion. Interesting fact – one of the executive producers of this film is accomplished English actress of Zimbabwean descent, Thandiwe Newton.
Jaana Semeri (translated by Mira Sairanen)