This intimate look at power lost will leave a lasting impression

2017-05-28 16:00
 
Marc Ravalomanana

City Press film review: Return of a President

Johannesburg - When, in 2009, the president of Madagascar, Marc Ravalomanana, was forced to resign from his second term after an opposition uprising ended in an effective military coup, he fled to South Africa.

Return of a President follows him during the days when he and his advisers were plotting a way back home. Their appeals to the Southern African Development Community and the international community are at first met with strong opposition. He is denied permission to board a plane and his supporters are left in limbo.

He tries again and manages to get as far as flying into Madagascan air space, only to be told that all the airports were closed for five hours. He has to return to Joburg.

All the while, Ravalomanana appears relaxed and good-natured in director Lotte Mik-Meyer’s intimate footage. Her interviews with the former president’s wife, Lalao Ravalomanana, are stirring. While he presents a show of strength, she provides insights to what the two of them are actually thinking.

What emerges more than once in the conversations in the film is the insidious post-colonial power that France holds over Madagascar.

That’s part of why this is an important story to tell. I have questions about whether a Danish director is the best person to tell it, sure, but Mik-Meyer achieves balance between amazing access to her subjects and remaining as objective as possible. Sadly, Return of a President offers nothing new stylistically. It looks like any episode of Special Assignment. But there is plenty of contemporary, post-colonial history to learn, and the story leaves a lasting impression.

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