Screening: The Ambassador by Mads Brugger
Fri, Sep 26. 3:30PM - 5:30PM
Docubox - The East African Documentary Film Fund Nairobi, Kenya
ABOUT THE FILM
In his new stunt documentary, “The Ambassador,” the Danish journalist and filmmaker Mads Brugger impersonates a European adventurer seeking his fortune in Africa. This character, named Mads Cortzen, might have been dreamed up by Joseph Conrad in collaboration with Sacha Baron Cohen. A slender, dapper fellow with a ginger beard and an ironical manner, Cortzen motors around Liberia and the Central African Republic in a flag-festooned Volvo, handing out bribes and secretly recording his meetings with government ministers, diamond mine owners and shady passport brokers. Mr. Brugger’s voice-over briskly explains the rules and risks associated with his imposture, and reveals a world in which everything seems to be for sale. His first purchase is a Liberian diplomatic credential, which he thinks will allow him to operate in the Central African Republic with impunity as he buys conflict gems and sets up a match factory. Nothing is quite as simple as it seems. A Dutch fixer and Liberian officials, in spite of thousands of dollars in fees and “donations,” cannot put his papers in order, placing him at risk of arrest or worse. His Central African partners might be ripping him off, and it becomes hard to tell if Cortzen is master of the mock-diplomatic game or the world’s biggest sucker.
It is also sometimes difficult to read Mr. Brugger’s intentions. “The Ambassador” is both a satire of European cynicism and an exposé of African corruption, but a crucial element of social or ethical concern is missing. There is, for example, no sense of the toll that venal governments and abusive business practices exact on ordinary Africans, and the arrogant contempt that his alter ego shows for the Central African Republic and its people sometimes seems to belong to Mr. Brugger as well.
But much of what he was able to record — the deadpan viciousness of a French mercenary in charge of state security; the casual greed of fellow diplomats; the pomposity and duplicity of local bureaucrats — is genuinely appalling. Mr. Brugger’s portrait of shameless, routine collusion between exploitative foreigners and dysfunctional dictatorships is depressing and undeniable.
Unless, that is, “The Ambassador” is even more of a hoax than it seems to be. This strikes me as plausible, since somebody having this much fun in such proximity to horror may not be completely trustworthy. Via http://www.nytimes.com/
Watch the trailer here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CLQNYsxP9T0