You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

An African Election

A drily punctilious look at democracy in action.

With: Nana Akufo-Addo, Jerry Rawlings, Atta Mills, Afari-Gyan, Hannah Tetteh, Kwesi Pratt, Rojo Mettle, Kwabena Agyepong, Moses Imoro. (English dialogue)

Sturdily made and timely, but kind of dull, “An African Election” observes democracy in action as Ghana prepares for its 2008 presidential race and then goes to the polls. Swiss helmer Jarreth Merz (better known as a character actor) and co-director Kevin Merz offer a dutifully well-balanced look at all the candidates, background, issues and events. However, such a drily punctilious treatment fails to excite until the final reels when the result is a squeaker. Stumping at Sundance may make the pic more of a candidate for slots on upscale TV.

The docu’s very title has a generic air, as if for all its specifics, what’s shown here is an example of business as usual on the continent. If that was the intention, then Ghana reps a good choice of subject. The first sub-Saharan nation to achieve independence in 1957, this West African country is pretty average in terms of population (20 million), wealth levels (the GDP is $38 billion) and its history of political strife (three republics and five military regimes since independence). More than once, participants tell the camera that the relatively peaceful and honest electoral process that’s seen unfolding here offers a hopeful sign of progress for Africa in general.

Action begins a few weeks before the Dec. 7, 2008. The two main presidential candidates — Nana Akufo-Addo from the more right-wing NPP (which has been in power for eight years) and Atta Mills from the leftist NDC (the party of one-time military dictator Jerry Rawlings, who’s still popular with many) — run around the country making speeches, working the press and saying anything within reason that might get them elected.

Sideline commentators note that there’s not much difference between them politically — both parties advocate agricultural reform and raising standards of education, and the docu doesn’t dig much deeper than that. Instead, the filmmakers emphasize breadth rather than depth by managing to get one-on-one access to both candidates, the country’s head electoral commissioner, Afari-Gyan, and even a still-feisty Rawlings himself, as well as several journalists and onlookers.

The real fun starts on election day, when millions show up at the nation’s very few polling stations to cast their votes, fearful they won’t get a chance to exert their democratic right before polls close. Auds in more developed nations will feel duly humbled to hear stories about people willingly waiting 12 hours or more in line to vote.

The most dramatic and interesting moments unfold in the “sweat box,” the office where the results from the constituencies pour in on faxes, observed by rival party agents Rojo Mettle and Kwabena Agyepong. The two constantly fight and shout at one another, but still profess their friendship through gritted-teeth smiles.

Slack editing makes for a draggy midsection, which isn’t helped by the use of semi-jokey chapter headings that only serve to underscore the pic’s television roots. On the upside, the jazzy, trumpet-heavy score credited to Patrick Kirsta and Ghanaba puts some genuine swing in the pic’s step. Lensing by Topher Osborn and Kevin Merz looks fine and crisp, even in the online version caught.

An African Election


Production: An Urban Republic presentation in association with the Cell Film Prod., RSI Radiotelevisione Svizzera, SSR-SRG Idee Suisse, Amka Films. (International sales: Urban Republic, Los Angeles.) Produced by Jarreth Merz. Executive producers, Franco Agustoni, Brigitte Agustoni. Co-producers, Tiziana Soudani, Luisella Realini, Silvana Bezzola. Directed by Jarreth Merz. Co-director, Kevin Merz. Written by Erika Tasini, Shjuri Yantara Marcacci.

Crew: Camera (color, HD), Topher Osborn, Kevin Merz; editor, Samir Samperisi; music, Patrick Kirst, Ghanaba; sound, Quiren Sieber; re-recording mixer, Riccardon Studer. Reviewed online, Hoveton, U.K., Jan. 20, 2011. (In Intl. Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam -- Reflecting Images; Sundance Film Festival -- World Cinema, competing.) Running time: 89 MIN.

With: With: Nana Akufo-Addo, Jerry Rawlings, Atta Mills, Afari-Gyan, Hannah Tetteh, Kwesi Pratt, Rojo Mettle, Kwabena Agyepong, Moses Imoro. (English dialogue)

More Film

  • Dami Im and Bong Joon-Ho'Parasite' premiere,

    ‘Parasite’ Wins Sydney Film Festival

    “Parasite,” the South Korean black drama that previously won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, was Sunday named as the winner of the Sydney Film Festival. After collecting a cash prize of A$60,000 ($41,200), at Sydney’s State Theatre, “Parasite” director said: “This Festival is really amazing, especially the audience…really special and extraordinary. This is the most [...]

  • China Film Group's Jiang Ping

    Shanghai: China Studio Chiefs Debate Winter Chills and U.S. Rivalry

    The Shanghai International Film Festival pulled off the impressive feat of assembling leading executives from seven of China’s top film studios. Their discussion focused on the problems that have recently beset the production sector and the industry’s relationship with Hollywood. “The film industry achieved great things in 2018, but it was also the year that [...]

  • Chinese President Xi Jinping claps while

    Propaganda Films to Dominate Chinese Theaters in Anniversary Year

    A presentation at the Shanghai International Film Festival on Sunday shed light on the welter of propaganda films that will compete with Hollywood blockbusters for the attention of Chinese cinema goers in the second half of this year. This year is laden with political significance for China’s ruling Communist Party. It is 100 years since [...]

  • Leung Chiu-wai

    Tony Leung to Star in Shanghai Film Group's 'Fox Hunt' Police Action Film

    Hong Kong’s Tony Leung Chiu-wai and mainland China’s Duan Yihong will head the cast of the Shanghai Film Group’s upcoming “Fox Hunt.” The film is based on real live events and depicts the activities of Operation Fox Hunt, a worldwide anti-corruption initiative managed by China’s Ministry of Public Security. The operation seeks to find and [...]

  • Wings Over Everest

    Terence Chang's 'Wings Over Everest' Set to Swell China's Rescue Film Genre

    “Wings over Everest,” a new action adventure film from veteran producer Terence Chang and “Wolf Warrior 2” producer Lu Jianmin, is poised to join the burgeoning Chinese sub-genre of rescue movies.   The Chinese- and English-language film stars Chinese actress Zhang Jingchu (“Project Gutenberg”; “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation”), Japanese actor Koji Yakusho (“Babel”; “Memoirs of a [...]

  • The Eight Hundred (The 800)

    China Film Marketing Firms Must Adapt To Internet Age, Says Huayi's Jerry Ye

    Huayi Brothers Pictures CEO and media group VP Jerry Ye made no mention Sunday of the abrupt cancellation of the premiere for his firm’s highly anticipated war epic “The Eight Hundred,” which was set to be the Shanghai Intl. Film Festival’s opening film the night before. Instead, he looked to the future at a panel [...]

  • The Meg

    Chinese Script Development Requires A Different Touch, Top Producers Say

    Leading film producers highlighted the challenges of developing good scripts in China and abroad at a panel during the Shanghai International Film Festival on Sunday. Wanda Media GM Jiang Wei (aka Wayne Jiang) recommended that producers remain aware of the real differences between the scriptwriting process for Chinese productions versus international and co-productions. The fundamental [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content