Examen d'état (National Diploma), by Congolese director, Dieudo Hamadi A Personal Story weaved in the Universal
Examen d'état (National Diploma), a 90 minute-documentary by Congolese director, Dieudo Hamadi discusses a very personal struggle of students in his hometown Kisangani of the Democratic Republic of Congo who would do anything to pass their state exam.
The movie lays out the concept of education in a small, poor city of the larger, more urbanized, Kisangani and how it is the last resort for the students who see it as a way to find a better future and change their drastic reality into something better.
Complications arise from the capitalistic ominous restrictions of private schools, which control the educational system due to the country's inability to provide basic services for its students. In a subtle and smooth way, the movie directs our attention into how corruption in third world countries is a hierarchal process that gets reproduced whenever people get stuck in a regular situation which turned into a complicated mess due to bureaucracy.
Through a series of witty situations and through masterful use of twisted humor, Hamadi presents the means which justify the bright ends that the students are seeking. Hamadi also excelled at presenting the hypocrisy by which conservative societies which are comprised mainly of poor, nuclear families survive. Despite finding their resort in education and science, students use religion as their gateway to success. By visiting the city's magician or spiritual leader, one student asks him for blessings, and for a juju (an amulet or a spell used superstitiously as part of witchcraft in East Africa) to use as a lucky (religious) charm for success.
One of the high points of National Diploma is its use of a very personal, national rapport to invest it universally. By using the Congolese students' struggles with education, he touches on the universal theme of finding one's steps in the intricate web of high school education. The average viewer would totally relate to this problem in this tiny city in a far off part of the world. National Diploma is a very ambitious product, the second documentary feature for his young director, however its low points stemmed from the three-act structure which instead of being proportionally divided, there was a very long, slightly dull first act with a vibrant, yet a bit rushed third one. There was also a heavily-influenced Hollywoodian approach to high school life through displaying the teenagers and how they interact with each other, without losing their sense of national identity.
Overall, National Diploma is a very ambitious film, making good use of standard filmmaking techniques while using its unique, personal story as a background for putting the spotlight on grand, international themes.
written by Jaylan Salah
This paper is part of the Workshop on Film Criticism, commissioned by the 4th Luxor African Film Festival, 16-22 March 2015, mentored by Thierno I. Dia, Africiné.