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An African Election

'None of the parties are offering a paradigm shift," says a Ghanaian political analyst on the eve of Ghana's 2008 presidential election. "All of the parties promise to do the same thing, but some promise . . . better than others." Jarreth Merz's documentary on the election starts entertainingly but conventionally. We're introduced to the key political players (who reference President Obama and the American political process as aspirational touchstones) and a breakdown of the largely superficial differences in parties. Historians and activists fill in the history of Ghana ("We were handicapped by accidents of history," says one speaker, "colonialism and neo-colonialism, striving men, and dictators . . ."), and all of it is buffered by captivating moments of everyday people going about life. But the film's third act, perfectly illustrating the dictum "truth is stranger than fiction," shows a cauldron of corruption (ballot boxes go missing, ballots mysteriously appear, charges and countercharges of fraud fly) that turns the film into an edge-of-your-seat thriller. Even those who closely follow African (or global) politics will likely be bowled over by the real-life plot twists unfolding before Merz's camera. What makes the film especially resonate now is the frustration with the status quo that is consistently voiced by the people on the street. And at the end of the turmoil, frustration gives way to a man smiling and saying, "The masses can change governments."

 
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