THE LIFE OF AN AFRICAN DIPLOMAT
LIFE OF AN AFRICAIN DIPLOMAT: The Ambassador, the cinéma vérité of Mads Brügger.
(Translation from French: Adam Abouaccar)
With its unique approach, coined as “peformative journalism” by its Danish director Mads Brügger, The Ambassador is bound to raise controversy within among its viewers. The line separating the establishment of fact when confronting a well-documented crime from the maintenance of false hope in a disillusioned people is thin. In an attempt to bring the diplomatic inner workings of African diamond mining to light (specifically in the Central African Republic), Brügger has constructed a film that is both frank and realistic; the equivalent of an impromptu cold shower. Keep in mind this is not the sort of work that will cradle you in your comfort zone, but in return for your courage, you will be granted an all-access pass, to even the most secret of conversations.
Whether you are interested in the corrupt intricacies of international politics or are simply looking to expand your general knowledge, The Ambassador will satisfy your needs. Mads Brügger has risked it all by assuming a false identity with the help of hidden cameras to show you the unseen political shenanigans connected to the crooked diamond market. The way in which Brügger has designed his documentary is sure to rattle many. He considers himself to be an “agent provocateur” instead of a mere observer as most filmmakers usually claim to be. For us, Brügger becomes Mr Cortzen, a business man who has obtained the title of Liberian ambassador to the Central African Republic. Mr Cortzen is looking to open a match factory. His cover also implies his involvement as an investor in diamond mining. The difficulties he incurs when trying to maneouvre through the criminal underworld demonstrate that trust is a rare commodity among crooks. It certainly took unprecedented courage to see this adventure out. I imagine that even Brügger did not know to what extent his journey would become one of great risk and intensity.
To brief you on the living conditions in the Central African Republic, I would say that this French-speaking country has no clearly defined laws, and the small group presenting itself as the authorities is in fact linked on some level or another to the majority of the country’s criminal activities. There is a sense of coexistence between the pygmy tribes that some higher-ups would like to see disappear by giving them a bit of traditional western education and by hiring them to work for their various enterprises, from the numerous mines to the various crops. This nation possesses an abundance of natural mineral resources (including gold and uranium) and is thus the focus of several international disputes with regard to the ownership of these goods. Nations that have laid such claims include France (the first colonizer) and China. The coup d’État is often the means by which one becomes president in this supposedly democratic country. The contradictions are manifold and extremely taboo. Skilled speakers are often eliminated along the way (in the literal sense). Life is rough and difficult. For 90% of the population, it is ultimately more a question of survival. There are numerous rich foreign investors looking to unfairly exploit the locals and their resources. Conversely, the locals’ security remains uncertain.
A topic as hot as this that has been discussed several times already demands a new approach. The care that Mads Brügger takes to inform us by showing us real images taken from life in a clean montage where the rare “inserts” only briefly punctuate the film’s message recalls – for me – the works of cinéma verité. In taking on the role of ‘bad guy businessman’, he leaves us, his audience, to assess the situations that confront him. The Ambassador is evidently not for everyone, but I challenge you to come and enlighten yourself to one disturbing reality.
THE AMBASSADOR has its Quebec Premiere July 20th at 8:00pm in the J.A. De Sève Theater. More info on the film HERE.