are generally addressed as “Your Excellency,” which is nice. They can also carry briefcases loaded with
diamonds through customs, no questions asked.
That is even cooler. It is
definitely what mad Mads Brügger had in mind when he set out to buy a
diplomatic post. His resulting
misadventures are documented in The
latest gutsy cinematic provocation, which opens this Friday in New York at the
you have seen Brügger’s Red Chapel (and
I really hope you have), you will be familiar with his fearless brand of
documentary filmmaking. The plan this
time is to buy an ambassadorship representing Liberia in the Central African
Republic (CAR) through a “diplomatic broker.”
(He seeks the services of two such dodgy individuals, one of whom
periodically sends me head-scratchingly bizarre e-mails ever since I covered The Ambassador at Sundance.) Once credentialed, Brügger will establish a
match factory as a cover for his unquestionably illegal diamond smuggling
operation. The shocking thing is he
pretty much goes about doing exactly that (for expose purposes), but there are
the record, these are very definitely blood diamonds he is talking about—there
just isn’t any other kind in the CAR.
That means the politically connected mine owner Brügger starts
negotiating with is a pretty scary character.
Indeed, there are considerable risks for Brügger in this masquerade,
including to life and limb.
Ambassador would be hilarious if it
was a feature narrative, but as a documentary, it is rather staggering. The wholesale government corruption Brügger
captures on film is obviously widespread and pervasive. While some blame for the country’s
lawlessness and desperate poverty is laid at the feet of their former colonial
power, the good old French, there is truly no excuse for such dire conditions
to exist in a country so richly blessed with mineral resources. Clearly, something is rotten in the failed
state of CAR, and Liberia is hardly any better.
like a character from a Graham Greene novel, Brügger plays his part to the
hilt. Unlike Red Chapel, where the director was in a constant on-screen dialogue
with the viewers and his co-conspirators in his attempt to punk the North
Korean regime, Brügger largely stays in character throughout Ambassador. His neck is also on the line when things get
dodgy, in a very real way.
Had a conventional Michael Moore-inspired
doc-grinder tackled this subject, they simply would have ambushed the
receptionist at Liberia’s UN mission and claimed a great moral victim when the
low level employee could not discuss their country’s diplomatic personnel in
the CAR chapter and verse. Brügger puts those
play-it-safers to shame. (This
specifically includes the cowardly Yes Men.)
Until they start challenging the kind of people who can make their
critics disappear, on their home turf, they are not worthy of carrying
Brügger’s cigarette holder. Another
have-to-see-it-to-believe-it film from the muckraking provocateur, The Ambassador is very highly and
earnestly recommended when it opens this Wednesday (8/29) in New York at the
Labels: Central African Republic, Documentary, Mads Brugger