Subversive satirist Mads Brugger's latest is an odd-couple comedy about the pitfalls of striking out into the economic frontier; it charts two hapless Danes' scheme to sell Saint Bernards to China's middle class.
Frederik Cilius Jørgensen,
Harriet Smith (Pauline Collins), the new British ambassador to Ireland, desperately wants to make her mark in this historically difficult posting and try to put the tragic murder of her ... See full summary »
At the very beginning of the movie Mads Brøgger is dressing up for the part. On his left hand he is seen wearing a replica of the "Good mark" ring normally worn by the comic book Character "The Phantom". This ring can permanently mark whomever it touches. The ring features four overlapping sabres forming a cross known as "The Good Mark". Those touched by it are under The Phantom's protection and the mark itself is said to give the wearer amazing luck. Whether Mads Brøgger actually met The Phantom during his stay in the Central African Republic is not known at this point, but having in mind that The Phantom usually takes care of criminal activities in the fictional African country Bengalla and is indeed a great friend of the pygmees it is highly likely that he would take immediate action. See more »
Crack reporter Mads Brugger invokes his inner Sascha Baron Cohen to turn into a Liberian diplomat searching for blood diamonds and the corruption surrounding it. Through his journey he comes into contact with brokers, who deal in diplomatic papers, thus offering despicable white guys opportunities to practise shady business matters in Africa. Laden with cash and an ultimate pre-ordained goal (of uncovering the blood diamonds trade), he dons a white suit, immerses himself into an eccentric European persona with racial stereotypes and ludicrous point of views, soon raining down on the Central African Republic, one of the most corrupt failed states in the world.
Despite touching some extremely fascinating issues, such as the brokerage in diplomatic passports, post-colonial back-room dealings and the mechanisms of power and money, "The Ambassador" poses several very problematic issues in terms of artistic honesty, limited contemplation and matter sensitivity by the director as well as some starkly distracting manipulative tactics. When Brugger is in character generally anything goes, much like the famed Borat, but unlike his British predecessor the Dutch director fails to capture the same controversial feedback, instead our quirky diplomat talks absurd nonsense to liven up proceedings with his unknowing counterparts just letting the powerful white dude churn out drivel, at best nodding in belated agreement. However the problem area lies in the overriding outlook by Mads Brugger, who often narrates his close-minded point of view, unfortunately one quagmired in generalisations, ignorance and a permeating lack of sensitivity. The basic message and ultimate downfall of Brugger being: "This is Africa", as if a documentary about Belarus could be summarised as "This is Europe". The Heart of Darkness is obviously invoked (despite the fact that the 'heart of darkness' by Conrad actually wasn't placed in Africa, but inside white colonialists), while Brugger dishes out overly generalised comments hidden within 'jokey punts' for the effect factor, making him almost as derogatory a character as his 'false diplomat' persona.
"The Ambassador" also feels overly fabricated as Mad Brugger has his mind set on reaching the pre-conceived conclusions, and if the facts say otherwise then f%^& the facts - such as the unapologethically misinformed attack on Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, which concludes the documentary. Another stark example: when shown a picture of what in my eyes looked like an amiable and friendly looking Asian, Brugger surprisingly narrates about how this person looks 'shady' (why? because he's Chinese?). The director's quest for so-called 'blood diamonds' ends up looking like a wild goose chase, but when he finally comes across a partner in business, it turns out that Brugger has a self-proclaimed definition of what 'blood diamonds' are (apparently government licensed diamonds mines using crude artisinal extraction methods qualifies as 'blood mining'). The stronger questions regarding corruption, the whole audacity of trading in diplomatics credentials and power mechanisms seems overshadowed by Brugger's incessant focus on getting a big story, instead of focusing on the small issues exposed to form the big picture.
The most divisive and contemptuous matters occur when Mads Bruger decides to have some mock fun at the expense of Pygmies, a side of the narrative, which should have been cut out for the director's sake, as he comes out as extremely exploitative and tasteless. A issue very well summarised by Docutopia reviewer Anthony Kaufman: "Thus, like the political stunts of Michael Moore, sometimes they work brilliantly when the target is right, as in Bowling for Columbine, when he goes after K-mart for selling bullets; but not when that target is misplaced, as when he goes after ailing NRA president Charlton Heston in the same film, trying to make him feel responsible for the shooting death of a young girl." Thus the inherent problem of Mads Bruger himself often feeling like the most embarrassing thing in the movie, something that "Borat" managed to avoid despite the titular hero running around with buttocks exposed in a five star hotel.
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