By Emily Lynn
If Borat could combine his satirical forces with a team of investigative journalists and then secretly land himself in a forgotten land, The Ambassador would be the film that documents their efforts. In this darkly humorous documentary, director, producer and main character Mads Brügger gives the audience a comical glimpse of the shocking corruption that occurs between third-world countries and their first-world antagonists.
In the film, Danish journalist Brügger decides to go undercover as a Liberian diplomat to the Central African Republic. His main goal is to establish himself in the diamond trade. Brügger’s cameras follow him from Portugal to the Central African Republic and to Liberia during his quest to become an official diplomat. On the way, he forms various relationships with other foreign self-proclaimed diplomats, African diamond dealers, Pygmy tribesmen and several other characters that lead him through his journey. Ultimately, they help expose the dirty deeds that go on behind the backs of the average CAR citizen. Throughout the entire film, the audience must evaluate the ethics and context of this journey, thus possibly causing confusion amongst even the most educated member.
Confusion is a driving aspect to the structure of this film. Audience members might find Brügger to be a slimy, sleazy politician who only wants to exploit the people of Central African Republic for their diamond trade. In reality, he is acting throughout the entire film as a sort of undercover journalist who wants to expose truth. This quest for truth can come across as confusing, so audience members must pay attention to his narration and speech. It’s this confusion of Brügger’s role in the story that makes it captivating.
One of the best aspects of this film is its use of camera angles and light. The cinematography could have been poor since the movie was shot with still DSLR cameras, but instead it feels intriguing, mysterious and authentic. Some of the best shots are taken looking down through a limited amount of space at a single subject, such as when Brügger conducts some of his interviews.
The comical side of this documentary is sure to invite criticism from people who are easily offended. Brügger can come across as racist or even unethical at times in his light approach to the heavy topic of government corruption. In every scene, English subtitles roll across the scene to help the audience understand what is happening in the current foreign language, and these subtitles help emphasize Brügger’s quick and witty speech despite the seriousness of the circumstances.
Brügger cracks jokes about most every ethnicity except his own, and he not-so-subtly mocks the lax government structure of the Central African Republic. Perhaps however, his point is to combat tragic corruption by exposing the absurdity of the circumstances. Somehow, the audience manages to laugh scene after scene even when most of the scenes contain content that normally would bring tears.
The Ambassador’s first showing at True/False 2012 was Friday, March 2 at 7 p.m. in Jesse Hall. The auditorium was nearly full and very responsive to Brügger’s attempt to comically disturb them with his dark sense of humor and urgent sense to expose corruption. Equally thought provoking and yet lightly entertaining, this film brings out the guilty laughter in everyone. It may leave many audience members wishing they had a chain-smoking Danish filmmaker to uncover the corruption in their towns.
Vox Rating: VVV
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