Real Talkies

Real Talkies

Every cut is a lie. It’s never that way. Those two shots were never next to each other in time that way. But you’re telling a lie in order to tell the truth. –Wolf Koenig.

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November 4, 2010 , , ,

In the United States of America, on November 2nd 2010, people spoke. They spoke vehemently like they did two years ago. Democracy and Elections are such funny things. The arithmetic of a democratic election does not add up. The constant number game of who controls the house is such a deterrent to action and purposeful governance. A democratic government which is for the people, by the people and of the people is sometimes so engrossed in party play that they forget where they actually came from and whom they represent. I felt the need for a film that moved beyond being a story of hope.

Liberia is a nation in the west coast of Africa, that was founded and colonized by freed African Slaves. After 14 years of a brutal civil war, Liberia elected its first female president—Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, nicknamed the Iron Lady. She is the only female head of state in Africa.

When elected she said,”I’m most concerned with being a mother to Liberia. I want to heal the deep wounds of this nation.”

IRON LADIES OF LIBERIA is a documentary about President Johnson Sirleaf’s struggle during her first year in office. With her predominately female cabinet, she tries to rebuild a war-ravaged country, fight rampant corruption and prevent a descent back into war.

Despite the many challenges of filming a head of state particularly in a corrupt war torn nation, Director Daniel Junge had unprecedented access to a fierce leader and filmed 400 hours of footage of her first year of Presidency to weave the story. One must watch the film to truly appreciate it.

The filmmaker was asked: What do you think Americans, as participants in the U.S. democracy, can learn from this film?

On the one hand, we should feel blessed that the first concern on our president’s mind isn’t an utter lack of resources or the very real possibility of a violent insurrection. On the other, I think the level of transparency, diplomacy and compassion exhibited by the head of state of this tiny West African country will give U.S. audiences pause to reflect on our own executive branch and how it conducts business. Regardless of your political affiliations, you can’t help but think there are lessons to be learned from how Ellen governs.


The film was released in 2007 and Ms. Sirleaf was elected to office in January of 2006. She is still the president of the nation. It is worthy to note that in October of 2010, she signed into law a Freedom of Information bill, the first legislation of its kind in West Africa. She will be up for elections at the end of her 6 year term, will her country elect her again?

Ms Sirleaf increased the national budget from a mere $80m in 2006 to $350m today. She persuaded the IMF to clear the last of Liberia’s $4.9 billion external debt. Monrovia is witnessing a building boom, with beach side resorts and blocks of flats springing up, along with some conspicuously grand mansions belonging to well-known politicians. “I did not realize the problem of corruption was so deep,” she concedes. “It is societal, it is not just a problem with government, it is all over.” In the spectrum of Liberian politics, Ms Sirleaf is arguably the best president the country has ever had. But that does not mean the voters are bound to agree.

Source: Economist.

It is the curse of being a populist leader in a democratic nation. One can never please or do everything that everyone wants and hence the incumbent is never popular and always has the uphill battle.


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