WONDER BOY FOR PRESIDENT
DIRECTOR: John Barker
CAST: Kagiso Lediga, John Vlismas, Akin Omotoso, Ntosh Madlingozi, Tony Miyambo, Loyiso Gola, David Kibuuke,Thishiwe Ziqubu
CLASSIFICATION: 13 L
RUNNING TIME: 91 minutes
RATING: 4 stars (out of 5)
A surprisingly gentle satire about our political system, Wonder Boy for President gets an extra star despite a slight script simply for being the only one of its kind around at the moment. Where other countries might see a rise in political satire when elections loom large, we have this one, and nothing else on circuit or tv.
It’s grungy, low-budget feel creates the impression that this was done on the fly, a step ahead of authorities, making it all the more of a deliciously guilty pleasure. Everybody plays it straight and serious, and the mocking part lies in the absurd justifications for corruption and double speak that pepper the dialogue.
Framed by talking-head interviews with various participants in the rise and fall of Wonder Boy, the mockumentary features guerrilla footage from various real political rallies, town hall meetings and conferences.
The imagery of a sea of yellow T-shirts and the ululating crowds familiar from real news footage add a touch of verisimilitude to the otherwise totally made-up story.
Barker’s mockumentary documents the rise and fall of a small-town guy in big city politics, specifically starting in the ANC Youth League. The script starts by taking a lot of cues from the rise of Julius Malema, down to quoting him word for word in specific scenes, but then wanders off into its own hinterland of weirdness.
Wonder Boy (Lediga), is brought to Joburg to run for office because word on the street is that he is personable. Groomed by two politicos out to enrich themselves, Brutus (Miyambo) and Shakes (Madlingozi), Wonder Boy has his eyes opened to a whole new way of doing politics and starts to question what is going on. But, then he gets distracted by the lovely Mbali Sithole (Ziqubu), his counterpart in the opposition, and things go pear-shaped.
The feature mocks the South African political system of patronage by holding up the absurdity of corruption and asking: really?
While the narrative is meant to be that of Wonder Boy, the interviews offered by Brutus and Shakes about what they think their role in politics is forms the bigger shock. Especially when the audience at a Cape Town preview – who were chortling up to that point and continued giggling thereafter – did not laugh when Shakes says corruption is necessary because that is how you spread wealth to the ordinary man.
While the words are meant to mock the idea, and the filmmakers allowed for a beat in order to get the laughter out of the way and ensure the audience doesn’t miss out on ensuing dialogue, the silence signalled the audience glossed right over it because it did not seem strange/absurd/out of place/funny.
If you liked Wag the Dog, good for you.