Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Watch: Jesse Eisenberg And Kristen Stewart Go On In The Run In Red Band Trailer For 'American Ultra' Watch: Jesse Eisenberg And Kristen Stewart Go On In The Run In Red Band Trailer For 'American Ultra' Tilda Swinton Joins Benedict Cumberbatch In 'Doctor Strange' Tilda Swinton Joins Benedict Cumberbatch In 'Doctor Strange' Watch: Jason Segel Plays David Foster Wallace Opposite Jesse Eisenberg In The First Trailer For ‘The End Of The Tour’ Watch: Jason Segel Plays David Foster Wallace Opposite Jesse Eisenberg In The First Trailer For ‘The End Of The Tour’ The Top 10 Films Of The 2015 Cannes Film Festival The Top 10 Films Of The 2015 Cannes Film Festival 5 Innovative Ways The Michael Fassbender/Marion Cotillard 'Macbeth' Differs From Previous Versions 5 Innovative Ways The Michael Fassbender/Marion Cotillard 'Macbeth' Differs From Previous Versions New ‘Ant-Man’ Photos; Movie May Include More Marvel Cinematic Universe Characters New ‘Ant-Man’ Photos; Movie May Include More Marvel Cinematic Universe Characters Over 30 New 'Jurassic World' Photos, Plus 2 New Clips & Lots Of New TV Spots Over 30 New 'Jurassic World' Photos, Plus 2 New Clips & Lots Of New TV Spots Matt Damon Goes Interstellar Again In New Pics From Ridley Scott's 'The Martian' Matt Damon Goes Interstellar Again In New Pics From Ridley Scott's 'The Martian' Cannes Awards Winners: Jacques Audiard's 'Dheepan' Wins Palme d’Or; Rooney Mara Ties For Best Actress With ‘Carol’ Cannes Awards Winners: Jacques Audiard's 'Dheepan' Wins Palme d’Or; Rooney Mara Ties For Best Actress With ‘Carol’ First Look: Matt Damon As An Astronaut In Ridley Scott’s ‘The Martian’ First Look: Matt Damon As An Astronaut In Ridley Scott’s ‘The Martian’ Cannes Review: Justin Kurzel's 'Macbeth' Starring Michael Fassbender & Marion Cotillard Cannes Review: Justin Kurzel's 'Macbeth' Starring Michael Fassbender & Marion Cotillard Watch: Incredible Vintage Footage Of Audience Reactions To 'The Exorcist' In 1973 Watch: Incredible Vintage Footage Of Audience Reactions To 'The Exorcist' In 1973 Lonely Island Movie Is Called 'Conner4real,’ Targets Justin Bieber & Katy Perry, Adds Sarah Silverman, Imogen Poots, & More Lonely Island Movie Is Called 'Conner4real,’ Targets Justin Bieber & Katy Perry, Adds Sarah Silverman, Imogen Poots, & More Here's The Character Backstory For Doof aka Guitar Flamethrower Dude In 'Mad Max: Fury Road' Here's The Character Backstory For Doof aka Guitar Flamethrower Dude In 'Mad Max: Fury Road' The 10 Most Controversial Cannes Films Ever The 10 Most Controversial Cannes Films Ever New NSFW, Extremely Graphic, Adults-Only Poster For Gaspar Noe's 'Love' New NSFW, Extremely Graphic, Adults-Only Poster For Gaspar Noe's 'Love' The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More

ND/NF '12 Review: Mads Brugger Cheats Death In Provocative Doc 'The Ambassador'

The Playlist By Gabe Toro | The Playlist April 2, 2012 at 12:05PM

Mads Brugger is a man with a death wish. The Danish journalist turned filmmaker will turn a lot of heads with “The Ambassador,” which recently debuted at the New Directors/New Films program in New York City. The film is ostensibly a documentary about the corruption between Central African despots and the foreign consulates that humor them, through the exchange of money, goods, and most importantly, conflict diamonds. Given such a volatile subject, Brugger could have kept his distance, investigating from afar, but he knew that wouldn’t get him the answers he craved. And so he put on an ice cream suit, picked up smoking, and became the mysterious Mister Cortzen.
1

The Ambassador
Mads Brugger is a man with a death wish.

The Danish journalist turned filmmaker will turn a lot of heads with “The Ambassador,” which recently debuted at the New Directors/New Films program in New York City. The film is ostensibly a documentary about the corruption between Central African despots and the foreign consulates that humor them, through the exchange of money, goods, and most importantly, conflict diamonds. Given such a volatile subject, Brugger could have kept his distance, investigating from afar, but he knew that wouldn’t get him the answers he craved. And so he put on an ice cream suit, picked up smoking, and became the mysterious Mister Cortzen.

It’s this delicious moral maze that gives “The Ambassador” a sticky, anarchic kick. As Cortzen, Brugger makes arrangements to become the Liberian consul, first by linking up with a questionable website and, soon, major political officials. No one Cortzen encounters has any illusions about what’s going on here -- he seeks diplomatic freedom to travel from Europe to the Central African Republic (CAR), where his cover will be designing a sketchy-sounding matchbook factory, an illusion upon an illusion upon an illusion.

The Ambassador

Closing these deals involves the type of diplomacy far above Brugger’s pay scale. Cortzen, however, is another matter. Wearing slick white boots, indifferently tapping his cigarette-holder, his eyes hidden by thick aviator glasses, Cortzen is a dandy from another era, an outdated sign of colonialism that feels both idiosyncratic and completely familiar to his new business partners. It’s only fitting that, in this getup, Brugger bears a strong resemblance to the late Michael O’Donoughe. Like the famed comedy writer, Brugger’s madness is both subversive and beyond risk, and O’Donoughe and Brugger share the same affinity for operating without a safety net.

Traveling to the CAR, Cortzen begins to glad-hand in the richest areas of the impoverished territory, sharing morally-questionable Hitler jokes with tropical shirt-wearing power brokers, and giving astoundingly terrible speeches -- in one moment, he selects a not-very-memorable quote from General Patton to excite a group of poor children whom have already been given alcohol by their parents and guardians. Cortzen ends up so far immersed in this world he begins to refer to himself as a “white albino,” all the while, two troubling truths linger: one, he is not who he says he is, and two, the bribery-fueled paperwork powering his consulate application has yet to go through.

The Ambassador

Those who thought Sacha Baron Cohen was risking life and limb in “Bruno” will have to prepare themselves for Brugger’s elaborate ruse. Dealing with a society with rich traditions, he realizes the best way to endear his match company to locals is to hire pygmies for their “magical” qualities, a distinction that excites those around him despite the fact that its obvious the factory is not going to be built. Cortzen’s noted bravado masks a genuinely frightened person, perhaps too distracted to realize “business partners” merely vanishing with suitcases filled with his actual money. Who can blame him? At one point, he sits down with a veteran security head for the CAR who tells him exactly what sort of danger he could get himself into. Over the course of the film, this man will be assassinated.

The CAR seems fairly far off to the casual viewer, though it’s not hard to see the pieces come together, even before one of Cortzen’s more unsavory business partners is revealed not only to be Muslim, but to have ties with Hamas. Of course, there’s the question as to what’s going on behind the scenes of the very film we’re watching -- the camera captures many bare hands admiring the shine of extremely valuable conflict diamonds, and you can’t help but think it’s a massive put-on when Brugger-as-Cortzen accidentally drops one underneath the couch. Frustratingly, the saga of Mister Cortzen comes to an unfortunate premature end as his ruse is spread too thin, threatening the safety of those around him. It’s the sort of compromise everyone should be comfortable with -- had Brugger forced the issue, we would likely be watching the work of a filmmaker who didn’t live to see final cut. [B+]

This article is related to: Review, Documentary


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates