Skip

Barbet Schroeder's "General Idi Amin Dada: A Self Portrait"
June 16, 2011 10:06 AM   Subscribe

Amin's hunger for publicity was so great, in fact, that in 1974 he became the first dictator in history to agree to be the subject of an independent documentary film. The resulting movie, Barbet Schroeder's General Idi Amin Dada... is a devastating look at despotism in action and a riveting, and strangely entertaining, portrait of Amin.

After hearing that Parisian audiences were laughing at the documentary, Amin examined the film closer and found 2 minutes that he wanted cut. When Schroeder refused to cut it initially, Amin made an offer he couldn't refuse. The malevolent dictator rounded up all French citizens in Kampala into a hotel and called the film director to force the issue. Knowing the fate of others in disfavor, Schroeder bowed to the hostage situation and cut the offending footage, which has been restored in the Criterion DVD release. Still missing is the final voiceover that expresses the theme of the intriguing film, that originally played during the haunting final close-up of the shifty eyed dictator:
After a century of colonization, let us not forget that it is partially a deformed image of ourselves Idi Amin Dada reflects back at us.
posted by Trurl (31 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
Idi Amin will forever have a place in my heart for collectively humiliating colonialist white people during his despotic reign
posted by Renoroc at 10:31 AM on June 16, 2011


An excellent film, one of my favs.
posted by Meatbomb at 11:17 AM on June 16, 2011


It's a fantastic movie, much creepier than the one about the scottish doctor.
posted by Forktine at 11:18 AM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


>Imagine a documentary that consisted mostly of Joe Lieberman talking and talking.

Oh god... oh god!
posted by Naberius at 11:25 AM on June 16, 2011


Idi Amin will forever have a place in my heart for collectively humiliating colonialist white people during his despotic reign


You got room for a lot of hate in your heart.
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 11:27 AM on June 16, 2011 [6 favorites]


Idi Amin will forever have a place in my heart for collectively humiliating colonialist white people during his despotic reign

Shit like this makes me not want to associate myself with lefties. The man murdered half a million people.
posted by empath at 11:28 AM on June 16, 2011 [16 favorites]




A fascinating and disturbing film. He's oddly charming for a complete sociopath.
posted by johnofjack at 11:48 AM on June 16, 2011


After hearing that Parisian audiences were laughing at the documentary, Amin examined the film closer and found 2 minutes that he wanted cut. When Schroeder refused to cut it initially, Amin made an offer he couldn't refuse. The malevolent dictator rounded up all French citizens in Kampala into a hotel and called the film director to force the issue. Knowing the fate of others in disfavor, Schroeder bowed to the hostage situation and cut the offending footage, which has been restored in the Criterion DVD release.
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 12:03 PM on June 16, 2011


Is it odd for a sociopath to be charming? I was under the impression being charismatic and persuasive was one of their "things."
posted by Neofelis at 12:14 PM on June 16, 2011 [6 favorites]


Interestingly, Shortly before decolonization, Idi Amin became the first African to receive a full commission in the British military. Generally, natives in colonial armies had a separate, subordinate ranking system.
posted by Jon_Evil at 12:17 PM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's weird to me how forgotten he is, in some ways. I never really heard of him till I was an adult. Oh wait, except for one time when I was a kid. I had a copy of The Book of Lists that must've been from the seventies. It included lists of Most Hated People, most of whom I recognized: Hitler, "Satan," Jack the Ripper, etc. For the more recent lists Idi Amin was near the top, sometimes number one. I remember asking my dad who he was. Never came up in school etc. Hm.

I would've thought Amin would remain a bigger cultural boogeyman. I mean, he's still alive, right? I should go look that up.
posted by Neofelis at 12:24 PM on June 16, 2011


The man murdered half a million people.

And was allowed to live out the remainder of his life in ease and comfort thanks to the always-remarkable generosity of Saudi Arabia.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:25 PM on June 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


D'oh. Okay, he's dead.
posted by Neofelis at 12:26 PM on June 16, 2011


I've seen the documentary, and it's terrifying. Not just for the air of menace and lunacy around Amin himself, but for the sheer bugnuts insanity of the world he forced to exist around him. Everyone around him had to bend to his whims, lest they be murdered, which led to some brain-haltingly bizarre moments. His "commandos" practicing an attack on Israel? The swimming competition? Reality goes away because Amin wishes it, and who knows what he'll wish for next?

The final shot of the movie, where Schroeder just zooms in on Amin's face and amplifies the sound of his breathing, giving the audience an idea of what it's like to have General Idi Amin Dada right in your face is rich nightmare fuel.
posted by Harvey Jerkwater at 12:30 PM on June 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


He's like King Charlie Sheen.
posted by idiopath at 1:43 PM on June 16, 2011


I will forever remember Idi Amin because Garrett Morris brought him into our living room when I was a kid.
posted by Xoebe at 2:07 PM on June 16, 2011


His full self-bestowed title ultimately became "His Excellency President for Life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Doctor Idi Amin Dada, VC, DSO, MC, Lord of the Beasts of the Earth and Fishies of the Sea and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular" [WP]

Growing up, I had a huge stack of old books with titles like "World's Best/Worst/Most Something-or-the-Other X". Idi Amin was quite prominent in the list of dictators. It was a terrifying portrait. I can't recall everything but my impression is that murders, rapes, cannibalism.. everything seemed to be on the table with this guy. The answer to "colonialist white people" isn't "despotic dictatorial racist regimes".
posted by vidur at 2:26 PM on June 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


I am the first to agree that two wrongs do not make a right, but this picture manages to warm the cockles of my heart somehow
posted by Renoroc at 3:30 PM on June 16, 2011


The swimming contest was amazing, a perfect fractal fragment of the whole.

The way to win a race is to propel yourself forward with punches, and drown as many competitors as you can.
posted by chronkite at 3:38 PM on June 16, 2011


Idi Amin will forever have a place in my heart for collectively humiliating colonialist white people during his despotic reign


So... would you have preferred to live in Uganda under British rule, or Uganda under Amin's rule?
posted by the noob at 4:59 PM on June 16, 2011


would you have preferred to live in Uganda under British rule, or Uganda under Amin's rule?

What color am I?
posted by Trurl at 5:03 PM on June 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


What color am I?

If you got on Amin's wrong side, gray, peppered with white dots burrowing into the gray.

Are you under the impression he only killed whites?
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:13 PM on June 16, 2011


Are you under the impression he only killed whites?

No. But the question wasn't whose rule was likelier to get me killed. The question was whose rule I would prefer to live under.

I don't much like being ruled by American politicians. But I'm confident that I would like being ruled by Chinese ones even less.
posted by Trurl at 7:27 PM on June 16, 2011


Idi Amin killed between 100,000 and 500,000 in eight years. The total Ugandas who have been killed, maimed, or displaced since 1962 is somewhere near 2 million.

I think both options are terrible, and true self-rule would have been preferable, but if the question is "what is likelier to get you killed," I can find no evidence that Colonial rule was as efficient a machine of death.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:39 PM on June 16, 2011


I can find no evidence that Colonial rule was as efficient a machine of death.

Depends which African colony one found oneself in.
posted by Trurl at 8:11 PM on June 16, 2011


Well, we're discussing Uganda, aren't we?
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:18 PM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Idi Amin will forever have a place in my heart for collectively humiliating colonialist white people during his despotic reign

Unfortunately, he also greatly enjoyed the collective humiliation (not to mention murder) of black and brown people. Does that also give you a warm and fuzzy feeling?
posted by Skeptic at 1:36 AM on June 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


Many years ago, even when we suspected what a monster he was, Idi Amin was a huge figure of ridicule in the UK.

John Bird and others did a wonderful spoof LP of collected broadcasts (which I still have, offers anyone?). This song was the best (only?) song, a real earworm, the first 45 secs and last minute or so are a bit clumsy but typical of the portrayal of him as an oaf.

This piece also make it quite clear we knew what he was about.

The 70s were a long time ago, I am ashamed to say it still makes me smile.
posted by epo at 4:27 AM on June 17, 2011


Is it odd for a sociopath to be charming?

I guess I wasn't very clear about what I meant. I meant that, even though I knew he was completely insane and would cheerfully kill anyone who displeased him, he had this disturbingly pleasant and disarming demeanor. Once or twice while watching it I felt my guard dropping, felt myself starting to think of him as I would anyone else. The oddness to me wasn't that he was charming but that I felt myself being charmed even in spite of knowing who he was and how dangerous he was.

It's possible that's not uncommon, even among psychologists studying sociopaths, so maybe I shouldn't have called it odd. But it certainly felt odd to me.

I've only just remembered it, but watching this film completely redefined "brave" filmmaking for me. All the political documentary directors I'd liked before suddenly seemed to be facing paper tigers.
posted by johnofjack at 10:42 AM on June 18, 2011


johnofjack, that totally makes sense and is very chilling. Even when you know it's possible to let your guard down. Scary stuff.




Was his title really "Fishies of the Sea?" Or just "Fishes"? Because I really really want it to be the former.
posted by Neofelis at 4:25 PM on June 18, 2011


« Older Don't Put The Bandleader on the Album Cover   |   Hey Internet, We Can Do This! Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post