Film Review: ‘An African Election’


Jarreth Merz’s documentary An African Election (2010) is an eye-opening account of the 2008 democratic election in Ghana between Attila Mills of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party, during which the country’s inhabitants queued for up to and beyond 10 hours in order to cast their vote. Whilst this delays the declaration of victory for the eventual victorious party – with a run-off being declared by the electoral commission – you do get a sense of the importance of this democratic decision being taken by the country.

Ghana was the first country in Africa to gain independence from the Commonwealth in 1957, but the continued troubles of politics – especially during the military coup of Jerry Rawlings in 1979 – led to an uprising of violence.

Rawlings remains an ideological icon in Ghana (his presence here reminds you of Orson Welles in his formidable ability to control you with his grasp of the English language), and here indulges in a monologue about the influence of foreign terrorism in Ghana – namely American CIA operatives before and during the Cold War.

Director Merz spent his childhood in Ghana, and An African Election feels like a personal love letter to his country, warts and all. The footage of honest assessments by everyday people are balanced with talking head deliveries by politicians, analysts and journalists, offering objective and subjective viewpoints and opinions.

Some critics may say that Merz fails to show precisely what is at stake for Ghana at the end of the election, when really this is due to the candidates’ inability to distinguish themselves as individual, masking the fact that both parties ultimately want the same thing. Politics, it seems, is the same throughout the world.

An African Election is released on 25 November from Dogwoof and will be playing at the Empire, Leicester Square (to the 1 December) and Edinburgh Filmhouse (2-4 December). Follow Dogwoof on Twitter @dogwoof.

Jamie Garwood