Next up we have Tega Okiti’s (@TegaOkiti) take on the stirring and thrilling Congolese documentary National Diploma. A film that is fast becoming a festival favorite (TIFF, London Film Festival and Abu Dhabi Film Festival to name a few) and one to add on the ‘not-to-be-missed’ list.
Tega was equally as impressed as Film Africa:
Many of us can remember the pressure we felt as teenagers sitting our exams or the echo of weary teachers trying to capture the attention of hormone fueled young minds with reminders about how our performance would impact the rest of our lives. Although a very real threat, traveling in one ear and out the other in classrooms up and down UK. Dieudo Hamadi’s National Diploma shows us just how far the outcome of final examinations can affect futures and more significantly the struggle to stay in the classroom and carve one out.
In National Diploma, Hamadi hones in on another fragile element of the DRC’s infrastructure with a smart and sensitive observational piece about the country’s education system. Each year approximately 500,000 students sit the equivalent of the French Baccalaureate within a shady system that requires students to pay tuition fees directly to teachers with those who cannot keep up with payments excluded from classes. The film follows a group of expelled final year students who inspired by World War II French resistance fighters form The Maquis create a make shift school in order to revise for their final exams.
What is most engaging about National Diploma is the maturity and resilience of the students to succeed despite the lack of supervision or support from both the adult world and the system they wish to be a part of. As the students mobilise to execute their Maquis one steps forward stating with quiet will – ‘We have to find our own solution. If we manage to get our diplomas they won’t be for the principal or herd they will be our diplomas’. This strength is also felt in Hamadi’s presentation. With no talking heads or didactic narration to steer the viewer’s emotions a fly on the wall style eye has the confidence to allow arguments to naturally come through observations. Playful teenage flirtations, songs and rituals, that need no subtitles, are just as subtly combined with more weighty observations hinting at the endemic fractures within the DCR’s titular democracy.
Hamadi displays a confidence and familiarity with his subject from our very first encounter with the students. We are introduced to an orphaned Market Porter as he goes about his duties with voice over explaining how he works day and night to fund his education. His next words immediately disrupt well-placed feelings of empathy – ‘I’m here to see you. I want you to help me succeed. Help me get may National Diploma so my life won’t be wasted.’
Words like these leave the audience feeling nothing but empathy and an admiring solidarity for the young minds on screen who are so determined to do whatever it takes to give themselves a chance at a bright future. National Diploma is a must see.
This hidden gem is really not to be missed, with such a glowing recommendation from Tega, the Film Africa Team are proper excited for this and you should be too!
Come join us and grab your tickets here