Bobi Wine: The People’s President
In the run-up to Uganda’s 2021 presidential election, Bobi Wine: The People’s President follows the titular singer-turned-politician’s campaign against the ruthless and violent regime led by Yoweri Museveni (who’s been in power for over three decades since seizing control of the country in 1986). After changing the constitution to make himself eligible to run for another term, it’s evident that Museveni has no intention of stepping down. Wine (real name Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu) uses his music to draw attention to the injustice of the government, galvanising a passionate following that aims to democratically remove the president from office. However, as the movement continues to build momentum, the police start to clash violently with Wine’s supporters.
People fighting for freedom against a tyrannical force has been the subject of Hollywood fiction for years, but the struggles here are far from fictitious. Audiences are thrown straight into the centre of the campaign as Wine, Moses Bwayo and Christopher Sharp’s documentary renders both the unshakable human spirit and the terrors of oppression in stark focus.
The singer’s music, which makes up a large part of the soundtrack, is upbeat and inspirational. His songs become an anthem for freedom across Uganda, which attracts devotees in their hundreds. Change and optimism are tangible when he’s elected as an MP, however events take a dark turn when he’s first arrested. Claiming to have been poisoned and horrifically beaten by his captors while being held in military barracks, it’s only here that viewers realise the very real danger for Wine and his family.
Though the story he tells the world is harrowing, this is only the beginning of his ordeal. The more support he gets, the harsher Museveni pushes back, and the more this documentary becomes like a horror film. Police open fire on protestors, Wine’s associates are forcefully beaten and abducted (sometimes even while live on TV), and bodies fill the streets. The filmmakers don’t pull many punches when showing the real-life violence, often using footage captured on phones. The extent of the brutality can make this documentary hard to watch at times, however, the images are necessary to show the extent of oppression in Uganda.
This is an immensely important documentary. By putting the very real terrors of oppression onscreen, Bobi Wine is an eye-opening look into the politician’s ongoing fight for freedom.
Bobi Wine: The People’s President is released in select cinemas on 1st September 2023.
Watch the trailer for Bobi Wine: The People’s President here: