Bobi Wine - The People's President. Source: Choices. - Photo: 2023

Prize-Winning Documentary Spotlights the People’s President

By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network

NEW YORK. 15 August 2023 (IDN) — “I’m president already. I’m president of the ghetto!” exults the subject of “Bobi Wine: The People’s President” midway through the documentary. That’s not exactly how it worked out, but directors Christopher Sharp and Moses Bwayo’s account of Wine’s 2021 campaign for president of Uganda suggests that he could have been the top vote-getter.

Now, this new and gripping documentary has opened in theatres in New York and around the country. It charts the inspiring activism of Bobi Wine, pop star-turned-politician seeking to end the dictatorship of Pres. Yoweri Museveni in Uganda.

Rising from the ghetto slums of Kampala to be one of the country’s most beloved superstars, Bobi calls out corruption, then becomes an Independent Member of Parliament to defend the rights of his people.

Museveni, a military officer and politician, has been Uganda’s president since 1986, changing the constitution to enable him to run for several five-year terms.

“Bobi Wine: The People’s President” premiered to a 10-minute standing ovation at the 2022 Venice Film Festival in September 2022, where it was sold to National Geographic before making its U.S. premiere at the 2022 Telluride Film Festival.

Viewers see Bobi and his wife Barbie, who risked their careers, their family, and their lives to challenge Museveni and bring democracy to their country. But the state was determined to silence not only them, but anyone who supports their cause.

An Afro-reggae singer clearly inspired by Bob Marley, Bobi Wine used his music to denounce the Museveni regime and defend the oppressed and the voiceless people of Uganda. In this fight, he must also take on the country’s police and military who used violence and torture in an attempt to intimidate and silence him and his supporters.

Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, known by his stage name Bobi Wine, is the current leader of the National Unity Platform (NUP) and the People Power Movement. Born in Mpigi District in Uganda on Feb. 12, 1982, he grew up in the Kamwokya slums in the northeast part of Kampala. His mother was a nurse and his father was a veterinarian and farmer.

On the campaign trail, he took on the fight for hospital sanitization, malaria prevention, refugee rights and children’s education. His songs are a peaceful protest and a mix between education and entertainment, focusing on Uganda’s underprivileged and low-income earners and calling upon young people to join politics and change their country’s destiny.

Last December, the U.S. government invited Museveni to the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, a move harshly criticized by Senator Robert Menendez, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (D-New Jersey. He asked Biden to isolate Museveni from the summit, saying his “disregard of basic democratic and human rights norms is inconsistent with U.S. values and foreign policy goals.”

Despite Museveni’s “troubling track record,” he noted, Uganda “remains one of the top recipients of U.S. foreign aid and security assistance.”

Bobi Wine is married to Barbara Itungo Kyagulanyi, known as Barbie, with whom he has four children.

He continues to lead the NUP, the largest political opposition party in Uganda and has become the main opposition leader to President Museveni’s rule.

Christopher Sharp, a Uganda-born Brit, and and Moses Bwayo (a Ugandan who shot much of the footage) mostly take a cinéma vérité approach. They got extraordinary access to Wine and his family, following them for five years. In their statement, the directors say they expected to find “human failings” in Bobi and Barbie, but never did. 

The film is showing at the Angelika in New York and in Washington, DC through August 26. [IDN-InDepthNews]

Photo: Bobi Wine – The People’s President. Source: Choices.

IDN is the flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.

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