National Diploma

Directed by Dieudo Hamadi

In Kisangani, a group of high-school students who cannot afford to pay the teachers' "bonuses" organized themselves to prepare the State exam together.


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  • ★★★★ review by Sarah McMullan on Letterboxd

    Filmed in Director Dieudo Hamadi’s hometown of Kisangani, National Diploma follows a group of senior students as they study to sit what is the equivalent of the University Entrance exam for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The make or break for most youths, a pass mean the difference between a life working in a market; and one where your future has no boundaries.

    The DRC however, is exceedingly corrupt, and the education system is no system. Students must pay for their education - fees to their school (really just sheds and blackboards) and their teachers. Bonuses are often demanded and if students don’t pay, they are excluded.

    With the final exam looming, a group of rebellious students determined to pass and sick of being held hostage by a corrupt and greedy system decide to set up their own exam preparation centre, “California”, in an effort to ensure their success. Needless to say, this does not please the local schools. It’s also than expected to revise without a teacher, and as the exam draws nearer, the students start to realise that hope can be both a good and a bad thing, and that sometimes you may have to do what you dislike to survive.

    An observational documentary, you can’t help but become attached to some of the students. For me Joel, the orphan who so desperately wants to pass, summed up the dichotomy of the developing DRC. Aware of his need for education, he studied as hard as he could yet needed to work the equivalent of a full time to job to survive and help with fees. A young man of religious conviction he prayed for guidance and help in attaining his diploma, and also visited an elder who mixed special charmed herbs to ensure success and luck.

    If it seems like a peculiar mix of the old and the new, it very much seems to sum up how Joel and his generation see their future in the DRC. Stuck between what has happened before, and what that means for them economically, socially; and what the future may bring if they work hard enough, or achieve by any means possible, the chance to move up and away.

    The relationship that Hamadi builds with his subjects throughout the documentary provides an intimate view of Africa that we don’t often get to see: one of Africa by Africans.

    This is a film I highly recommend you make time to see.

    4 Stars

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