National Geographic Documentary Films has acquired the rights to “Bobi Wine: The People’s President,” a political documentary about the Ugandan opposition leader that premiered at the Venice Film Festival this weekend.
Nat Geo acquired the film ahead of Bobi Wine appearing at the Telluride Film Festival when the film will make its North American debut this weekend. Nat Geo intends to roll the film out at other festivals throughout the year and will release it theatrically in 2023.
“The People’s President,” which screened with the working title “Bobi Wine: Ghetto President” at Venice, comes from directors Moses Bwayo and Christopher Sharp as well as Oscar-winning producer John Battsek.
Wine was born in the slums of Kampala but has grown to become a former member of parliament, an activist and even a national music superstar. Now, though, as the Ugandan opposition leader, he hopes to bring down the regime led by Yoweri Museveni, who has held power in Uganda for 35 years and who also recently changed Uganda’s constitution to let him run for yet another five-year term.
Running in the country’s 2021 presidential elections, Wine (whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu) uses his music to denounce the dictatorial regime and support his life mission to defend the voiceless. In this fight, where he is joined by his wife Barbie, he must also take on the country’s police and military, who are not afraid to use violence and torture in an attempt to intimidate and silence him and his supporters.
The film’s working title came from Wine himself, a term he has used to describe his unlikely rise to fame and the opportunity to make a difference for the people of Uganda, where he has now dedicated his life to being a champion for inclusive government and an advocate for all of Uganda’s people.
“My people, the Ugandan people, are familiar with my journey through music, politics, imprisonment and torture, but this film is a microcosm of my country’s larger struggles under an unrelenting dictatorship that has been operating with impunity for decades. I can’t wait for global audiences to see the reality of the situation and question their leaders’ support for this regime,” Wine said in a statement.
The film screens Sunday morning, Sept. 4 at Telluride, and Wine that evening will also perform in the center of town for festival goers.
“Bobi and his wife Barbie are once-in-a-lifetime heroes who take great personal risk to dislodge and liberate a nation from a ruler who has been in power for 35 years,” directors Bwayo and Sharp said. “As documentary filmmakers, we are occasionally fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to relate events that can bring about transformation. We believe that this is one of those occasions.”
“At a time when people’s most basic human rights are being threatened around the world, including in the United States, Bobi Wine’s activism on behalf of all Ugandans is hugely inspiring, gripping and necessary. We are honored to help bring this beautiful and important film to the world,” Nat Geo said in a statement.
“There isn’t a better home for our film. My experiences with National Geographic Documentary Films have always been the very best. They match the passion and care that the filmmakers bring to making films in the way in which they market and release films. We really couldn’t be happier to have them as our partners on this film,” producer Battsek added.