Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5.
France/Switzerland, 1974. Le Figaro, Mara Films, Télévision Rencontre, 3ème chaîne ORTF. Screenplay by Barbet Schroeder. Cinematography by Nestor Almendros. Produced by Jean-Francois Chauvel, Charles-Henri Favrod, Jean-Pierre Rassam. Music by Idi Amin. Film Editing by Denise de Casabianca. The Criterion Collection.
Monsters come in all forms, and this disturbing documentary proves that some of them come in very complex and captivating packages. Barbet Schroeder’s camera follows Ugandan dictator Idi Amin for a few months in 1973, and with the full co-operation of his subject, filming his cabinet meetings and capturing him ranting to the camera on subjects that include his justified takeover from president Obote and his feelings about Israel and Hitler. Schroeder presents a highly complex figure who easily won the Ugandan people’s hearts over with his charismatic personality before becoming an international figure of evil. The film was released in 1974, a few years before the whole world found out about the slaughter of 300,000 Ugandans under Amin’s orders, but even at the time the film was made there were already rumblings about political opponents who had gone missing and a once flourishing economy rendered to third-world status thanks to his excesses (Uganda is one of the few African countries that up until that point had not suffered economic stress as a result of colonialism). Watch it especially if you’ve been captivated by Kevin Macdonald’s brilliant dramatic film The Last King Of Scotland.