Renowned Cameroonian director Jean-Pierre Bekolo’s feature film, The President, which
is banned in Cameroon, is now available on Africa video-on-demand (VOD) platform,
The story of the film revolves around the disappearance, just a few days before the
elections, of the film’s fictional president. That the film clearly refers to the country’s
real-life leader Paul Biya, in power for more than 30 years, didn’t please the
Cameroonian government, which swiftly banned the film from being screened in the
For Bekolo, who recently came back to Cameroon after years teaching film in American
universities, it was crucial that Cameroonians from both within and outside the country
have access to his film — so he turned to leading African video-on-demand platform
Buni TV (www.buni.tv).
“Today, new technologies provide a solution for filmmakers in countries that still impose
censorship on cinema and where freedom of speech is still threatened,’ says Bekolo.
“Online distribution will make The President widely available, and hopefully this will lead to
real dialogue on the issues the film raises.’
Buni TV already has experience with politically sensitive content. The video platform is a
service of Buni Media, the production company behind The XYZ Show, Kenya’s hit
political satire show with an audience of 10 million, which recently won the Africa Magic
Viewers’ Choice Award for Best TV Series.
“One of the great advantages of the internet is that it can circumvent censorship,’ said
Buni TV CEO Marie Lora-Mungai. “Buni TV wants to play a role in fostering and
supporting the free flow of ideas in Africa. When we learned that Jean-Pierre was not
able to screen The President in Cameroon, we felt it was our responsibility to help this
important film reach its audience.’
Bekolo has distinguished himself as one of Africa’s boldest and most unconventional
filmmakers, producing genre-busting material such as his 2005 film Les Saignantes (The
Bloodettes), a sci-fi political satire about two high-class vampire prostitutes using their
sexuality to expose – and kill – corrupt politicians.
With The President, which premiered at the Durban International Film Festival in July,
Bekolo touches on one of Africa’s remaining political taboos: what does the failing health
of the continent’s few remaining dictators-for-life mean for their country?
Besides Biya, who reportedly spends more than half the year outside Cameroon, other
African presidents regularly missing in action include Zambia’s Michael Sata, who is
rumored to be in India or London for treatment, and Angola’s Eduardo dos Santos, who
simply cannot be located at all.
Last year, Ethiopia’s premier Meles Zenawi died of an undisclosed illness in a hospital in
Brussels, after disappearing from the public eye for two months. In 2010, Nigeria found
itself in political limbo after President Umaru Yar’Adua’s death. Ghana’s John Atta Mills
passed away from cancer despite his party’s numerous denials that he was even sick. In
April last year, the death of Malawi’s Bingu wa Mutharika was hidden from the public by
those in the government trying to block current leader Joyce Banda from taking power.
And then there is Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, who at 89 years old makes frequent trips
to Singapore for “normal eye check-ups’ and refuses to discuss his health.
The President will be available for free at www.buni.tv for a week as from 12 October,
and later re-released under the platform’s upcoming subscription service. Viewers from
across Africa and the world will be able to stream the film from their computers or
internet-enabled smartphones or tablets.