In the Congo, passing the national baccalaureate exam can save a young
person from a life of manual labor and open the doors to university and a
career. To fail the exam is to be fated to struggle for survival through menial
work. As Congolese filmmaker Dieudo Hamadi’s documentary National
Diploma so powerfully shows, the path to success in the national exam is
full of challenges. We see a school principal come into a prep classroom and
summon those students who have not paid their fees to pay up now or leave.
Those who stay aren’t much better off: the teachers are striking because they
haven’t been paid. So an enterprising group of students rents a house to cram
for the exam. Yet Hamadi’s fly-on-the-wall camera reveals study methods that
are as surprising to Western eyes as they are endemic in the Congo: students
visit marabouts for medicinal plants, get preachers to bless their pens or
exorcize them, and, most importantly, pay recent graduates for cheat sheets.
Working in classic cinema vérité style, Hamadi follows the group of students
through the exam to the nerve-wracking announcement of the results,
providing an indelible portrait of the role of education in Congolese society.
Joël, Jonathan, Roger, Florence,
Congo, France, 2014
$200 discounted Tournées Film
Festival rate for one screening