Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Film The Governor's New Clothes (Mweze Ngangura, 2004)

Tonight Congolese filmmaker Mweze Ngangura presented at the Duke University Screen Society his The Governor's New Clothes (Les Habits Neufs du Gouverneur). His film spoofs the corruption of petty dictators and is based on Hans Christian Andersen's famous 1835 story The Emperor's New Clothes about a king who thinks he is wearing a glorious outfit, while it is only an imaginary one; do any of his subjects dare reveal the truth of his lack of clothes?

The director chose a musical style, which, in the discussion, he revealed was from the influence of Indian "Bollywood" films. A man is chosen by chance to be the new leader of his African country, causing him embarrassment because he is married to a woman and has a son with her - but they are of rival ethnic background. How does he reconcile his thirst for power with his duty to his family?

I didn't appreciate the film as much as I had expected, and found the music repetitive, simplistic, and even contrived and corny, featuring an ancestor who appears time-to-time singing from within a moon. The story was relatively predictable and didn't keep my interest. But I wouldn't discourage others from seeing it; I may have had cultural blinders on that kept me from seeing more merit in the film.

I posted a review on extracted from here. From the Screen Society web page:

The Governor's New Clothes (Les Habits Neufs Du Gouverneur)(dir. Mweze Ngangura, 2004, 87 min, Democratic Republic of Congo, in French with English subtitles, Color, 35mm)
Not your usual film about African politics, corruption, and vanity -- The Governor's New Clothes is a musical comedy which parodies the trappings of power and African leaders.Mweze Ngangura, the distinguished filmmaker whose work, Pieces d'Identites won the most prestigious award in Africa, the Etalon de Yennega, in 1999, will share his latest feature, The Governor's New Clothes, with the Duke community on Wednesday, March 22, 2006.
Adapted from the Danish writer, Hans Christian Andersen's 'The Emperor's New Clothes" (1835), this remarkably perceptive film is a parable about power and vanity.
Mweze Ngangura on his film The Governor's New Clothes: "[Hans Christian] Andersen exposes the rulers' vanity and mean flattery. What strikes me first in this story is its universal value, more particularly its applicability to the vast majority of African political regimes. …I wanted to situate the action in the political and cultural context of the 'murderous reality' of present day Africa. The film evolves against a background of war between two ethnic groups, the Zerbos and the Krowas. Tabou, the main character (the Governor), is a Zerbo who personally feels the dilemma of being married to a Krowa (Mopaya), with whom he has a son, Little Prince. The choice of names for the ethnic groups - 'Zerbo' and 'Krowa' -corruption of 'Serbo' and 'Croat' - indicates my clear reference to the fact that ethnic conflicts are not an African monopoly. At the same time, the film wants to maintain the universal nature of the fairy-tale. The Emperor's New Clothes is a musical comedy on the theme of abuse of power, with as a main story line the history of a family on the verge of collapse."


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