Riveting POV Zimbabwe Documentary ‘President’ Debuts On PBS Aug. 8

documentary President. President makes its national broadcast premiere on POV on Monday, August 8, 2022
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Photos: POV\Wilimedia Commons

POV, America’s longest running documentary series, currently celebrating its 35th anniversary season, follows the erratic 2018 presidential election in Zimbabwe – the country’s first democratic election since its independence in 1980 – as it serves as the ultimate test for both the ruling party and for the opposition in the discerning documentary President. President makes its national broadcast premiere on POV on Monday, August 8, 2022 (check local listings) and is available to stream free until September 8, 2022 at pbs.org, and the PBS Video app.

In addition to standard closed captioning for the film, POV, in partnership with audio description service DiCapta, provides real time audio interpretations for audiences with sensory disabilities.

Directed by Camilla Nielsson (above) (Democrats, Mumbai Disconnected), produced by Academy Award® nominee Signe Byrge Sørensen (The Act of Killing, The Look of Silence, Flee) for Final Cut for Real and Academy Award® nominated and Emmy® Award winner Joslyn Barnes (Trouble the Water, Strong Island, Hale County This Morning This Evening) for Louverture Films, and executive produced by Danny Glover, Thandiwe Newton, Susan Rockefeller and Tone Grøttjord-Glenne, the film questions how Zimbabwe will interpret democracy in a post-Mugabe-era – in discourse and in practice.

Zimbabwe is at a crossroads. After eight years of oppression under the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) regime, president Robert Mugabe is forcibly ousted from power in the military coup of November 2017. When Mugabe was removed from power, Zimbabwean military leaders promised they would not seize control for themselves, but rather ensure democracy in a national general election. In the context of an economic crisis, food shortages and political violence, the stakes could not be higher.

Nelson Chamisa, (above) the new young and charismatic leader of Zimbabwe's opposition party, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Alliance is challenging the old guard ZANU-PF represented by the acting president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is determined to remain in power. Chamisa, is a 40-year-old lawyer who fought against President Mugabe’s regime while he was a student activist. The more popular candidate, Chamisa draws enormous crowds while Mnangagwa is unable to fill a stadium after bussing in alleged supporters.

When the election results come in, it is no surprise when Mnangagwa insists that he won, despite that the numbers never add up in his favor. When asked how sixteen counties could’ve possibly reported identical election results, the ZANU-PF’s lawyer argues that only a behavioral scientist could account for how such an amazing coincidence could occur.

Can a free, fair and transparent election that reflects the will of the people proceed? President offers riveting witness and an epic reminder that democracy won't happen if the people don't fight to create it. The film is of staggering global relevance to all who envision a more just, egalitarian future.

“I am thrilled that President will be broadcast as part of the POV series on PBS, and thereby reach a very wide and engaged audience across the U.S. I hope the film will prove inspiring for everyone concerned with participatory democracy and the critical elements that make it possible – such as a free and independent press; an independent judiciary; freedom of speech, association and assembly; a multi-party system; a system of checks and balances; rule of law; and transparency in governance. As we see democracies under threat everywhere, I am in awe of the courage of Zimbabweans to champion their freedom,” said director Camilla Nielsson.

“The political situation in Zimbabwe has been intense for years,” said Erika Dilday, POV executive producer and executive director of American Documentary. "President became especially intriguing given our own country’s struggles fighting against voter suppression and other attacks on democracy. This film takes a fascinating look inside the political machine and grassroots organizing and we are honored to have it as part of our historic 35th season.”

President won the World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award: Verité Filmmaking at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival and was Shortlisted as a Feature Documentary for the 94th Academy Awards®.

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