Nestor, Aaron, Benjamin and Rafiki are economics undergraduates at the University of Bangui. Navigating between the overcrowded classrooms, the petty trades that allow students to survive, bribery lurking everywhere, Rafiki shows us what students’ lives are like in the Central African Republic, a shattered society where the youth keep dreaming of a brighter future for their country.
With its focus on a change of generations and new voices trying to break through, it is fitting that the first film from the Central African Republic (CAR) since 2003 to arrive at a big international festival is Rafiki Fariala’s documentary We, Students!, which has just premiered in the Berlinale’s Panorama. It opens with the director himself facing the camera in a close-up shot and singing a cappella a song about the impossibility of changing old structures and the disenfranchisement of the youth. Such songs are the only music score to the film, and they work surprisingly well.
– – It is hard to film in CAR, as people are not used to cameras, and Fariala was arrested three times. At the university, lecturers fear their incompetence will be uncovered. But the scenes between friends, in which they take turns capturing the image and sound, contain all of the information and opinions that Fariala wanted to get across. Plus, they have an uplifting feeling of camaraderie – even when Nestor is at his most depressed, we feel the love they have for each other.
Vladan Petkovic, Cineuropa
Content warning: discussion about rape