7.4/10
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4 user 3 critic

Echoes From a Somber Empire (1990)

Echos aus einem düsteren Reich (original title)
Documentary examining Bokassa's rule in the Central African Republic using the testimony of witnesses and visits to key sites.

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Cast

Credited cast:
Michael Goldsmith ...
Himself
...
Himself
Augustine Assemat ...
Herself
David Dacko ...
Himself
Francis Szpiner ...
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François Gibault ...
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Marie-Reine Hassen ...
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Documentary examining Bokassa's rule in the Central African Republic using the testimony of witnesses and visits to key sites.

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28 November 1990 (France)  »

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Echoes From a Somber Empire  »

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If you don't know Bokassa this is a tough haul. And even if you do its probably a bit dull.
27 April 2008 | by (Glen Cove, New York) – See all my reviews

A Werner Herzog documentary I don't care for.

This is the story of Michael Goldsmith a reporter who is trying to get some semblance of the life of Jean Bedel Bokassa one time emperor of Central Africa. Bokassa had Goldsmith beaten and almost killed several times. We watch as Goldsmith talks to friends, family, enemies and anyone who knew the emperor, who at the time of the filming was in prison having been sentenced to death in absentia. Herzog follows Goldsmith and lets him ask the questions he wants to ask and go to the places he wants to go to. There is no judgment on anyone just the facts as laid out by the people on the way. Its a trip into a heart of darkness.

I'm not sure what I make of the film. The problem is that other than a vague passing notion I have no idea who Bokassa was. I didn't know very much about him, actually I knew almost nothing about him, and after seeing the film I'm not sure I know any more. Goldsmith, the central figure of the film is also a strange man. Nearly beaten to death by Bokassa and his sons he never the less stayed in contact with the man when he was sent into exile.Its never clear why he would want to stay in touch with a man who nearly killed him on more than one occasion. he comes off as a rather odd duck.(Herzog reads a letter at the start of the film from Goldsmith has gone missing and is believed dead. Actually he survived and died about the time the film was released of a stomach hemorrhage).

To be honest the film bored me. I didn't have clue as to why I was watching this. Yes Herzog's films can be oblique and make you wonder whats going on, but at the same time there is always a hook. There is always some kernel of curiosity that is the way in. Here there simply is Goldsmith and his quest. There is no hook, there is no way in unless you know something about its subject, though having spent sometime on-line trying to find out about Bokassa and Goldsmith I'm not sure I would try the film again., its just not that interesting.


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