Saturday, December 6, 2014

General Idi Amin Dada

Barbet Schroeder’s portrait  of Idi Amin is a strange viewing experience. A trip back to the time when Amin was viewed by some as a savior of Africa, the film is a kind of window dressed portrait of the man as benevolent dictator- except he’s not. He was a crazed dictator who filled the lakes and rivers of his country with the bodies of his perceived enemies.

Schroder went into filming to shoot as much of the truth as possible. His subject, honored that a foreign film crew was interested in him put on a show. We watch as Amin goes through the paces of his life for the camera and explains himself.

Watching it after the passage of forty years is an odd experience. Looking at the film now it’s not really clear why the film generated much notice when it was made, except that the film came out just as the excesses of self-proclaimed Last King of Scotland were being made known to the world. It’s a film that doesn’t play particularly well on its own terms these days. This is historical document now. You really aren’t going to watch the film for enjoyment (frankly I’m considering getting rid of my Criterion disc)

If this isn’t a “good” film why am I writing it up?

Largely because as a piece of history it’s absolutely fascinating. This is a window on the world, or a certain portion of Africa in the last days of the colonialism of Europe. From the late 1950’s through the early 80’s Africa was having its borders reshaped. The political landscape was redrawn. Here’s a portrait of what the Europeans left in their wake.

Also seeing Amin as he portrays himself is a trip. Watching this film and then say watching Forest Whitaker in Last King of Scotland or something like Amin The Rise and Fall can make your head explode.

No comments:

Post a Comment