General Idi Amin Dada (A Self Portrait)

"Excellent"

General Idi Amin Dada (A Self Portrait) Review


Idi Amin is crazy. Totally insane. He mercilessly overthrew his home government in Uganda in 1971, and yet in 1974 he allowed Barbet Schroeder (who would direct a fictional movie about an equally crazy real-life subject decades later in Reveral of Fortune) into his country to make a documentary about his life and regime.

General Idi Amin Dada (A Self Portrait) is exactly that. Schroeder goes where Amin says and when Amin says, and after the film was finished, Amin demanded a number of cuts that portrayed him in an unsatisfactory light. What leverage did Amin have to make such demands of a Frenchman? Well, he said that if Schroeder didn't make the cuts, he'd possibly kill or maim some 150 French citizens living in Uganda. Sounds a little like Hollywood...

Amin's self-aggrandizement is easily the highlight of the movie, with his candid, no-idea-he's-a-total-lunatic remarks about the appropriate place of women, Jews, and his detractors in the world. One moment he's chatting about the number of alligators. The next he's making threats to his staff. Then he's expaining how he can see into the future, per "the gods' instruction."

Unfortunately you won't learn a lot about Amin's politics in the film. Basically, that's because there are none. Unlike Hitler, who had an agenda, Amin is content with a government that's about no one but himself. He's building up an enormous armed forces -- even a Navy, in land-locked Uganda -- for whatever battles with his neighbors might arise. But meanwhile, his 18 children need tending to. Yes, we ever get to visit with Amin the father. And he's always in uniform.

The craziness gets the Criterion treatment, with Amin's demanded cuts restored (they aren't that horrific -- mostly they involve various voice-overs about various assassinations or disappearances). Schroeder also provides a new interview about the movie and how it came to be. Altogether, it's fascinating.



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Starring: as Himself, as Himself, Golda Meir as Herself

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