Film Review: Black President

In association with the Africa in Motion Scotland African Film Festival 

With the highly anticipated Africa in Motion film festival coming to Glasgow from the 23rd October to 1st November, qmunicate has been given the chance to review one of the films set to premier at the festival; Black President. This documentary/art piece follows Zimbabwean artist Kudzanai Chiuarai as he sets the stage for an ambitious and controversial exhibition called ‘State of the Nation’ that invents a utopic African nation in order to explore the continent’s violent past and continuing political turmoil.

Although young, Chiuarai has been hailed as one of Africa’s most talented contemporary artists due to his uncompromising art projects used to confront Africa’s socio-political issues. So influential is Chiuarai’s work that an early piece demonising Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe forced the artist into exile in South Africa after he was threatened with arrest. Such a figure may seem a daunting choice for a biopic, but first time director Mpumelelo Mcata handles his intriguing subject with great care while creating a unique piece of film that reflects Chiurai’s artwork in its own imposing aesthetics.

On the face of it, Black President centres on the dramatic turns in Chiuarai’s life, how his artwork is received by the public and how his political views prompt such inspiration. But using Chiuarai’s journey, Black President also asks deeper questions about the purpose and importance of culturally specific art in the face of globalisation. Does Chiuarai’s art define his culture or does it condemn and mock it in the eyes of the rest of the world? Does his artwork speak solely for himself on a personal level or does it encapsulate his community? Should it? There’s no straight forward answer and it allows for a fascinating exploration of the perceptions of African culture and post-colonial governments from the point of view of African citizens themselves.

With its focus on non-traditional narrative or techniques and its intense visual style, Black President is in no way a popcorn movie, but it offers a truly unique experience that delves into the rarely seen art world of South Africa with an arresting artistic approach and thoughtful consideration of Africa’s modern political landscape.

Black President will be screening on the 26th of October as part of the Africa in Motion Scotland African Film Festival.

You can watch the trailer here

For more information click here. 

[Andrew McIntyre]

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