Hot Docs 2022: Our Review of ‘We, Students!’

Posted in Festival Coverage, Hot Docs 2022, Movies by - April 28, 2022
Hot Docs 2022: Our Review of ‘We, Students!’

Taking one of many study breaks, one of the titular subjects in We, Students! takes his girlfriend to one of the higher floors in his dorm building to watch the sunset with her. In any context, this can be a romantic end to a date, but then he tells her “you’ve never been on top of a building before”. She responds “What do you take me for”? as a woman should. I get it, it’s Bangui, the capital of Central African Republic. That’s a developing country where buildings look like whoever built them did so a few generations ago, but what he said is pretty condescending. Regardless of that, this documentary chronicles three students of the University of Bangui as they try to maintain their romantic relationships. They do this as they study in an institution that they see as incompetent or corrupt or a little bit of both.

We, Students! tries to challenge the form in its shoestring way. There are a few fourth wall breaks and musical numbers – don’t worry, the latter ones feel spontaneous. The former technique doesn’t necessarily work. The documentary establishes the relationship between Rafiki Fariala and his subjects. And the whole work itself comments on the power dynamics between him and them, sure. But it doesn’t flesh out the rest of that relationship that when one of the subjects question him, it feels sudden. There’s something defensive about how Fariala talks to his subjects too. He doesn’t also differentiate among his subjects. Who’s Aaron or Benjamin or Nestor? Who’s the baby of the group and who has to retake a year’s worth of courses and who quits and comes back and who had to go to the police? The fact that I remember these plot points but not these subjects is very worrying.

Watch We, Students! on Hot Docs.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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