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Neil Mathieson

Sitting in front of a television camera, President Wade of Senegal appears calm. Calm, despite the fact that his legitimacy as a candidate in the upcoming elections is under review by the constitutional council and thousands gather in Obelisk Square in Dakar denouncing him. At the heart of the opposition is the group Y’en a Marre, this is where The Revolution Won’t Be Televised starts filming. They are a non-violent revolutionary group of young men aided not by weapons but by Marxist ideals, social media, and hip hop. Their demands are simple – “remove Wade from the democratic system, of which he is the main gravedigger”. Sadly the images are all too familiar. Crowded streets lined with protesters are met by a phalanx of armed guards. Shots ring out, people flee, and fires blaze in the street.

The film doesn’t give historical context regarding the hotly contested 2012 elections. We do not get to know Wade, how he came to power or the extent of his corruption. The camera bounces as we ride along in cars avoiding the police, rioting in the street, and listening to private internal debate. With their future, freedom, and safety in jeopardy we watch as Y’en a Marre becomes a powerful voice of change in a vital election.

The narrative structure The Revolution Won’t Be Televised cobbles together is often chaotic, which is frustrating, but ultimately forgivable. There is som ...

Sitting in front of a television camera, President Wade of Senegal appears calm. Calm, despite the fact that his legitimacy as a candidate in the upcoming elections is under review by the constitutional council and thousands gather in Obelisk Square in Dakar denouncing him. At the heart of the opposition is the group Y’en a Marre, this is where The Revolution Won’t Be Televised starts filming. They are a non-violent revolutionary group of young men aided not by weapons but by Marxist ideals, social media, and hip hop. Their demands are simple – “remove Wade from the democratic system, of which he is the main gravedigger”. Sadly the images are all too familiar. Crowded streets lined with protesters are met by a phalanx of armed guards. Shots ring out, people flee, and fires blaze in the street.

The film doesn’t give historical context regarding the hotly contested 2012 elections. We do not get to know Wade, how he came to power or the extent of his corruption. The camera bounces as we ride along in cars avoiding the police, rioting in the street, and listening to private internal debate. With their future, freedom, and safety in jeopardy we watch as Y’en a Marre becomes a powerful voice of change in a vital election.

The narrative structure The Revolution Won’t Be Televised cobbles together is often chaotic, which is frustrating, but ultimately forgivable. There is something refreshing about these messy unfiltered moments. I feel more present than if I was being led down a path oppressively imposed upon me. Most importantly the film takes perilous political turmoil, in an unfamiliar part of the world, and gives it a human face.

Without the frills of narration or voiceover The Revolution Won’t Be Televised is compellingly raw. Director Rama Thiaw cultivates a thriving spirit with rapid cuts and concert footage. There is unfortunately less attention paid to the contours of her characters.

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