The Ambassador

As a film, The Ambassador is fascinating. Danish provocateur/journalist Mads Brügger embeds himself in the dangerous and twisted world of the African business diplomat. With sketchy, black market credentials, the character he’s playing moves from Monrovia, Liberia to Bangui, Central African Republic in search of blood diamonds but under the pretense of building a third-world-saving match factory.

The real Brügger, it seems, wants to expose the actual men who participate in these abhorrent transactions, but at what cost? The film admirably addresses the moral quagmire it finds itself bogged down in by calling attention to the men who are counting on Brügger to live up to his promises of investing and creating jobs in the area. But for all the time Brügger spends darkly sending up this diplomatic culture (what with his leather boots and cigarette holder), it’s hard to enjoy yourself watching The Ambassador.

The film, as you might have guessed by this point, is a documentary along the lines of Exit Through the Gift Shop and Catfish. The access Brügger gains into the upper levels of the Central African Republic government is nothing short of astonishing. He films his meetings with them in what must be the only safe style—using either a handheld camera operated by an unknown associate or using hidden cameras rigged to his person or in his apartment. Lord knows what would have happened to Brügger if one of these cameras was discovered.

It’s such a ludicrous situation that one can’t help but as least question the legitimacy of it all. Were these people in on Brügger’s joke the whole time? Certainly not all of them, as we learn late in the film that one interviewee was found dead (though there doesn’t seem to be any connection whatsoever to Brügger). But a good portion of The Ambassador‘s budget must have been spent on paying off these high-ranking government officials—some good, old-fashioned “Don’t kill me, please” money.

Brügger doesn’t flinch when dealing with any of these people—the mark of an outstanding performer. But one wonders how he could emotionally remove himself from these people and this situation so thoroughly. That’s the mark of someone with a few screws loose. Whether you view The Ambassador as a brilliant piece of gonzo journalism or a despicable, deceptive mockumentary that manipulates third-world men and women, it’s hard to argue against the film’s originality. I can guarantee you won’t see anything like The Ambassador this year.

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