2016: The Revolution Won’t Be Televised: Hip-hop for democracy

Documentary: The Revolution Won’t Be Televised (Senegal)
Director: Rama Thiaw

The Revolution Won’t Be Televised, a title referencing the famous poem and song by Gil Scott-Heron, is about the power of words in the fight to win back democracy for the people of Senegal.

The piece is a powerful, gritty and colourful account of revolutionary hip-hop group Keur Gui and their fight for justice.

Directed and produced by Rama Thiaw, best known for her 2009 documentary on Senegal’s youth resistance, Boul Fallé, la Voie de la lute (The Way of the Fight) this documentary – in Wolof and French – tells the story of three friends, Thiat, Kilifeu and Gadiaga who establish the Y’en a Marre (We are fed up) movement.

This is in response to President Abdoulaye Wade’s corruption of the Constitutional Council in 2012 in order to make himself eligible as a candidate for a controversial third term in the country’s elections. 

Through sometimes-blurry, real-to-life cinematography, viewers at the Durban International Film Festival (and on DStv’s ED channel) will learn how protest is not part of the country’s culture.

For Keur Gui, mobilisation of the people is most effectively achieved through song and dance in peaceful demonstrations against a corrupt system.

Unfortunately for the protagonists – unlike the Arab Spring – international media give little to no coverage of this African revolution, hence the title of the documentary.

The soundtrack, flavoured by rap and hip-hop, sets the scene for the end of the group’s journey where they hold a roadshow and concerts in Burkina Faso, the birthplace of assassinated revolutionary Thomas Sankara.

The film is interposed with personal accounts of the activists themselves, as well as interviews with the president by a French television broadcaster.

While it is a striking depiction of the people’s revolution in Senegal, its conclusion is unsatisfying, leaving viewers wondering about Y’en a Marre’s next move. 

The ending also lacks a projection of the group’s agenda in post-Wade Senegal. Nevertheless, the director does her best to capture the heart of the resistance and shows the audience the realities facing activists on the ground.

» The Revolution Won’t be Televised screens at the Durban International Film Festival tonight, June 21 at 8.30pm at Musgrave cinema complex and on Thursday June 23 at 6pm at the Playhouse

» You can also watch on TV tonight, June 21 at 7.55pm on ED (DStv channel 190)

» Megan Lewis is the media and communications officer at a local non-profit organisation fighting for environmental justice rights

» This story emanates from the Centre for Communication, Media and Society, Student Media Lab in partnership with City Press #Trending. Visit ccms.ac.za to find out more
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