Bobi Wine:The People’s President: an illuminating Uganda-set National Geographic documentary about the hugely popular musician turned politician who challenged the incumbent, long-serving President.
Protest songsby Alexa Dalby
Bobi Wine: The People’s President
Pop superstar turned politician Bobi Wine is a hugely popular phenomenon in Uganda. This gripping documentary Bobi Wine: The People’s President by filmmakers Moses Bwayo and Christopher Sharp follows him from 2017-2021, when he stood for election as president against Yoweri Museveni, the incumbent since 1986. It’s hard to think of an equivalent here but imagine if Stormzy was the leader of the Opposition and had a seat in Parliament, as Wine did.
Perhaps understandably, this National Geographic documentary shows Bobi Wine (real name Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu) in a favourable light. He is the only effective opposition to an autocratic ruler who has been in power for too long and who in 2018 altered the law to allow him to carry on as president even longer. It shows the commonplace chaos, intimidation and violence of the elections and the personal price Wine had to pay for his activism – house arrest guarded by the army for him, his formidable wife Barbara and four children after the elections.
The documentary follows Wine and his family from returning to the Kampala slums he grew up in, to their home, to his hospital bed after being brutally beaten up during his election campaign, interspersed with international television news reports. It tries to cast light on why he is so determined to fight for freedom and justice and how he inspires his red-bereted followers to keep going against odds which seem overwhelming. As well as denouncing Museveni’s government in his music, he somehow also manages to create a message of hope for a better Uganda.
The issues Wine confronts are not limited to a country far away, though. Sadly, Uganda could be anywhere that democracy is under threat and ordinary people are brave enough to resist.
Bobi Wine: The People’s President premiered at the Venice Film Festival, had a gala screening in Los Angeles recently and is released on 1 September 2023 in the UK.