Few documentaries have left me with as conflicted a response as Mads Brügger's mockery of North Korea, "The Red Chapel." At once a brilliantly hilarious satire of propaganda worthy of its award at Sundance last year, yet also a problematic piece of crooked ethical standards only excused by being an exploitation of a people fully accepted as the enemy. Brugger's shtick is aligned with the deceiving comic routines of Sacha Baron Cohen and The Yes Men, with a touch of Morgan Spurlock stunting. He can deliver the laughs, but to what cost? And like with Cohen's "Borat" and "Bruno," is it fair because it's exposing bad behaviors?
Brügger's new film, "The Ambassador," appears to be a similar act of undercover work, seemingly even more dangerous. This time his charade brings him to Africa, where he pretends to be a wealthy diplomat with plans to build a match factory. Actually, he technically is a diplomat, having bought such status to gain access to the continent's corrupt diamond trade that a true journalist could not achieve. But there's still a lot of deceit and derision involved, I'm sure.
Twitch brings light to the trickster's latest as well as an official trailer for the doc, which you can check out after the jump.
This one doesn't look as funny as "The Red Chapel," probably because Brügger doesn't have the outrageous comedy duo that accompanied him (or that he accompanied?) to North Korea. And I fear that absence will keep me from at least enjoying the gag this time around, while I'm again questioning its moral decency. I am regardless quite intrigued by it, particularly after reading the following quote in an interview with the Danish Film Institute (via Twitch):
"The film is a massive criticism of postcolonial Francafrique, French Africa. The Central African Republic could be Africa's Switzerland. They have everything – gold, vast amounts of diamonds, oil, cobalt. The state security chief, who was actually murdered while we were there, used the metaphor that, if you want to prevent a man from running, you put a pebble in his shoe. All the resources the country needs to develop are being spent fighting the rebel army. The state security chief told me that the French Air Force flies two planes equipped with motion and heat detectors over the Central African Republic every day, so they know where the rebel army is. Even though the government for three years has been asking the French to share their information, the French are refusing. That's the pebble in the shoe."
The pebble in the shoe remark reminds me, of course, of the famous statement by Lars Von Trier, whose company, Zentropa, produced both "The Red Chapel" and this follow-up. "A film ought to be like a pebble in the shoe," he says, as his fictional counterpart, in "Epidemic." Brügger's previous feature was definitely a pebble in my shoe and I have high hopes "The Ambassador" will be the same. It should at least show us a side of Central Africa we're not used to seeing in other modern documentaries.
I can't find a release date listed anywhere, but I presume it will debut at IDFA this fall and maybe make it to Sundance in January.
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