The Revolution Won’t Be Televised takes a look at how a president-for-life was brought down by democracy
The last five years have been politically eventful, starting in late 2011 with the unraveling of the highly mediatized Arab Spring. Every year since has seen its own political movement emerge, notably the Black Lives Matter and the Occupy movements of 2012. In the midst of those political events was a revolution in Senegal, one that was overlooked by the Western media. Senegalese producer Rama Thiaw took matters into her own hands by making a documentary about the political turmoil in her home country.
The Revolution Won’t Be Televised was screened on Sept. 19 at the season opening of Cinema Politica.
It tells the story of the Senegalese rap group Keur Gui that lead a political revolution in their home country. The groups’ members, Thiat (Cheikh Oumar Cyrille Touré), DJ Gardiaga and Kilifeu (Mbess Seck), were tired of the social injustice, the political corruptness, the endless cycle of poverty and the police brutality that plagued their country. Together, they created an association named “Y en a marre,” which roughly translates to “enough is enough.” Outraged, they planned peaceful demonstrations against the upcoming election campaign of President Abdoulaye Wade, a man who had enslaved his people for 12 years without any political opposition. The Revolution Won’t be Televised documents Keur Giu’s actions during the election and its aftermath.
What is highly refreshing about this documentary is its message and overall tone. It’s surprising lightheartedness showcases how commitment and self-sacrifice can reap social change. The interactions between the rappers are funny and quirky, and it is interesting to see a political revolution driven by music. The rappers are inspirational characters, speaking to their peers about how important it is to register and vote. Fans are asked to show them their voting cards during concerts and the group implores them to not sell their cards, a practice that is crippling their political system.
It’s also worth noting how these men completely transform once they are on stage. They become incredibly energetic, and Thiat becomes a Super Saiyan from Dragon Ball Z, based on the look of his hair. Their rapping style is aggressive and conveys the anger they feel towards their government leaders. As shown in the documentary, it is no wonder people took to the street after listening to their songs. Their lyrics are politically charged, including such statements as, “We are the victims of the crisis and true discrimination/I am fed up of this corrupt justice system.” These lyrics come from their song “Coup 2 Geule.”
During protests, the rappers would frequently tell their supporters to project a good image and to respect the policemen by saying “these men are men like us.” Thiat also values education and there is a scene in the documentary of him speaking to a classroom full of university students about the importance of being educated. The trio had no interest in becoming politicians—they just wanted people to not be cynical anymore and to start speaking out against injustice. Defying all expectations, their movement successfully managed to oust the president by encouraging the masses to register and vote.
What is shocking is the lack of media attention this revolution received. When asked about the lack of coverage by the international press, Thiaw said it might be due to the fact France did not want a “black spring” on their hands, and thus overlooked the revolution in Senegal. It is worth noting that Senegal was colonized by the French and gained its independence in the 1960s. According to the BBC, as a rather young country, Senegal has had its share of political unrest, but has been one of the most stable countries in Africa.
Thiaw edited the whole film by herself—the herculean task took her two years. She also did the whole post-production on her own, and the entire film crew was young and inexperienced. This lack of technical knowledge is visible in some scenes but does not take away from the impact the movie has on its viewer. Much like the rap trio presented in her documentary, Thiaw is someone whose determination is admirable. It took Thiaw and her crew six years to make the documentary, and they struggled to find funding since: “[the] cinema industry does not trust women when it comes to technical jobs,” Thiaw said.
Cinema Politica will present 13 politically-charged documentaries throughout the fall semester, and often holds subsequent Q&A sessions with the filmmakers. Cinema Politica’s upcoming documentary is called Seed: The Untold Story on Sept. 26 at 7 p.m in the Hall building (room 110). The film looks promising, it tells the tale of the seed industry and how Monsanto’s monopoly has forever changed the face of farming.