THE STORY – Ugandan opposition leader, activist and musical star Bobi Wine uses his music to fight the regime led by Yoweri Museveni, who’s led the country for 35 years, and runs in the 2021 presidential election.
THE CAST – Bobi Wine & Barbie Kyagulanyi
THE TEAM – Moses Bwayo & Christopher Sharp (Directors/Writers)
THE RUNNING TIME – 113 Minutes
We as humans love to see a hero. Someone who will inspire those around them. Someone who will step up and help those who are often ignored. It seems the world garners less and less of these individuals as each day goes by. Yet, every once in a while, there emerges someone who truly wants to transform their country for the better. That makes stories like that of Ugandan musician and now-turned-politician Bobi Wine all the more uplifting. While a bit unpolished, it’s hard to ignore the impactful filmmaking that directors Moses Bwayo and Christopher Sharp bring with “Bobi Wine: The People’s President” and the important story that deserves notice.
“Bobi Wine: The People’s President” documents the unbelievable true story of reggae artist turned politician Bobi Wine. The film predominately takes place over the five years when Wine began his political journey, starting with his stint in Parliament and his eventual presidential run against the current Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni. According to many citizens of Uganda (who are publicly brave to speak it), President Museveni has failed to live up to what they originally had hoped for. Over time, that hope has continued to dwindle as Museveni has been in power for over three decades, casting a dark cloud over the country. Moved by the very same people who have supported his musical career, Wine wants to bring back that hope and help change Uganda for the better. It’s easy to see how he has made an impression in the country. Wine is an incredibly charming personality with a smile made for a camera. Behind that smile is someone with integrity willing to risk his life to do what is right. That’s what the citizens of Uganda have responded to and what has made this such a rousing real-life Cinderella story.
The structure of “Bobi Wine: The People’s President” is a bit simplistic, especially for a figure as significant as the film props them up to be. The first half mainly focuses on how Wine met his wife, Barbie Kyagulayni. Although the start of their relationship is focused on briefly, their bond is one of the strongest aspects centered on in the documentary. Kyagulani is just as headstrong as Wine, filled with an enormous amount of heart and courage. Audiences can see how the political pressures of President Museveni weigh not only on her family but also on herself. The film is broken down year by year, building up to the 2021 Ugandan Presidential election. Screens with text are sometimes displayed, catching audiences up on events that would have been better shown. It’s a shame because how cinematographer (and co-director) Bwayo captures this campaign is engrossing. The beauty of Uganda is shown in the massive crowds of smiling faces as citizens interact with Wine. Viewers can see the energy radiating off every expression. The same can be expressed when the horrors of Museveni’s oppression are shown through brutal forms of voter intimidation and controlled police violence. It’s harrowing how this footage was captured in the first place and a testament to the director’s vision of bringing this story to the limelight. Towards the end, the film focuses on the pandemic in 2020 and how that played into the election. Seeing the usual compact streets filled with individuals completely empty was haunting. Besides setting up the endgame, this is where the film tends to struggle the most.
Without knowing anything about Wine or the current regime that is placed upon the people of Uganda, it is a bit telegraphed how the eventual end of the film will play out. Seeing how Wine is not a major personality known by the world, it could be assumed that he clearly didn’t win the election. It’s quite infuriating, yet that is the filmmaker’s intention. To build up an expectation or hope that things would change, only for it to remain stagnant. It makes audiences wonder if things will eventually turn out for the better. The hope the film excludes could feel as if it’s all misleading. Realistically, how can one non-violently bring change to a regime that not only has lasted decades but is funded by some of the most powerful countries in the world? It almost seems impossible. The cynical nature of the world almost waters down the spirit this film attempts to reinvigorate. Nevertheless, it’s still a story that is benefited from being shown. It’s probably said all the time, but “Bobi Wine: The People’s President” is eye-opening. These are the stories that should be shared. Even with its flaws, by the end of the documentary, you can’t help feeling filled with the hope that Wine never seems to falter from.