National DiplomaOriginal Title: Examen d’état
Director: Dieudo Hamadi
Congo, France | Lingala, French
Subtitles: Arabic, English
After casting his lens countrywide in his debut feature Atalaku (2013), a film focusing on the 2011 Democratic Republic of Congo presidential elections, filmmaker Dieudo Hamadi goes local with this arresting documentary that follows high school students’ attempts to earn the titular document in his hometown Kisangani. The stakes are high for these kids. As one of Hamadi’s subjects, Joel, explains, getting his diploma will mean the difference between the menial existence of a porter or moving up in the world.
But while the teens come up with various methods to give themselves an edge, from seeking insider knowledge from those who have already been through the exam to consulting with shamans, the biggest roadblock between the students and graduation is an educational system that won’t let them continue their studies in school if they cannot pay fees demanded by their teachers. Hamadi’s intimate, cinéma vérité documentary follows a group of the students as they make a passionate last stand to complete their education and better their lives.
The winner of two awards at Cinéma du Réel, National Diploma is both personal and political, the corruption endemic to society revealed in the students’ plight. It is also an often gripping examination of the teens’ indomitable spirits and their fierce determination to transcend the strictures of their hardscrabble lives.