Review by Camden Ferrell
President is a documentary film that sees director Camilla Nielsson returning to the topic of the politics of Zimbabwe. This film had its premiere at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, playing at numerous festivals since then. For those who are not familiar with the political climate, this documentary is an eye-opening look into blatant corruption that plagues democracy in modern-day Zimbabwe.
After a successful coup in 2017, Robert Mugabe was removed from power in Zimbabwe. The country has since been under the same ruling party. Claims that this new government would protect the integrity of democracy lose footing as the incumbent is challenged by Nelson Chamisa in an election. Chamisa, who draws a lot of comparisons to Nelson Mandela, wants a country that is governed not ruled. However, corruption is on full display as we ponder whether Zimbabwe can ever truly have a free and fair election. This is a globally significant event that the audience has the privilege of experiencing in an engaging and captivating manner.
First and foremost, Nielsson understands the fundamentals of storytelling. The narrative structure of this documentary is one of the most impressive aspects of the film. While this couldn’t have been entirely planned, it’s interesting to watch how this director constructs this story while being able to emphasize their themes and messages.
Superficially, the movie is specific to the political climate of Zimbabwe, but Nielsson understands the significance of this event. She uses this story to emphasize the importance and specifically necessity of free and fair elections and a solid democracy. Her themes are strong and developed well, and it’s conveyed in an entertaining manner that audiences will have no problem following with intrigue.
While the film has a lot of great things working for it, there are a few lulls throughout. The movie does take a little while to build up momentum and hit its stride, but it doesn’t detract too much from its central story. Thankfully, the film compensates for this with a riveting final half that will perplex viewers and give them something to think about long after.
President is a timely documentary that is worth checking out. It’s educational, especially for those unfamiliar with the political climate and recent events of Zimbabwe. It can sometimes suffer from its own pacing, but it’s a surprisingly thrilling and entertaining story with strong themes about the importance of democracy worldwide.
President is in theaters December 17.