The President, film review: Tragicomic drama about the toppling of a dictator

(15) Mohsen Makhmalbaf, 115 mins. Starring: Misha Gomiashvilli
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The Independent Culture

Makhmalbaf's highly original new film is a tragicomic drama about the toppling of a dictator. The twist here is that the drama is seen from the perspective of the dictator himself.

The toppled president here is like a cross between Colonel Gaddafi in Libya and Lukashenko in Belarus. He is so used to his own god-like status that he has long since forgotten basic human decency. When he is forced to go on the run with his pampered, doe-eyed grandson in tow and a huge ransom on his head, he begins to look on the world with very different eyes.

There is a Chaplinesque feel to the storytelling. Makhmalbaf plays up the comedy and pathos in the dictator's plight as he is reduced to living like a hobo on the road. At the same time, the film doesn't disguise the cruelty of his regime or the chaos, horror and extreme suffering he has left behind, or the bad faith of those who once supported him but then turn on him.

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