An African Election

An African Election


Reviewed by: Leanne McGrath

African elections are notorious for allegations of corruption, fraud and violence. Democracy can only prevail in a stable environment but the effects of poverty and social injustice threaten the stability in Africa.

This political documentary is a behind-the-scenes look at the 2008 election in Ghana to see if the country can reverse these trends. More important than the actual winner is the need to prove to the world the election is fair and democratic - that a third world African country legitimises itself to its first world contemporaries and acts as an example to its neighbours.

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The movie follows the key players in the 2008 election for three months and is granted one-on-one access to the charismatic politicians, party operatives and electoral commission, resulting in an unprecedented insider’s look. The presidential candidates are Nana Akufo-Addo, a founding member of the ruling, more right wing New Patriot Party, and John Evans Atta Mills of the leftist National Democratic Congress.

The NDC was born in the early 90s out of the Provisional National Defence Council, headed by Jerry John Rawlings, a former military commander who ruled Ghana for almost 19 years after leading a military coup in 1981. He is also frequently interviewed and is a leading figurehead of the party.

The documentary is well balanced and never presents either party in a more favourable light than the other. A series of commentators actually highlight how similar they are - both favour agricultural reform and improving education standards.

The movie captures the preparation and tactics of the political campaigns, the carnival-like atmosphere of their support rallies and how millions queue for 12 hours or more at Ghana’s few polling stations, terrified they won’t get a chance to exercise their democratic right to vote.

The filmmakers try to build suspense but the movie drags a bit in the middle and only really gets exciting at the end when controversy hits the election. But it does give insight into Ghana’s revolutionary political history after it became the first sub-Saharan nation to gain independence in 1957.

It is at its best when depicting average Ghanians trying to ensure democracy and peace reigns in their beloved country and saying that an honest election offers signs of progress for Ghana and Africa as a whole.

Reviewed on: 15 Mar 2011
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Documentary charting the 2008 presidential election in Ghana.
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Director: Jarreth J Merz, Kevin Merz

Writer: Shari Yantra Marcacci, Erika Tasini

Year: 2011

Runtime: 89 minutes

Country: Switzerland, US, Ghana


Sundance 2011

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