Fascinating, surreal, funny, horrifying, and ultimately mind-boggling when one tries to figure out how director Barbet Schroeder and his crew managed to capture "self-styled" dictator General Idi Amin in all his infamous glory. From scenes of the notorious butcher playing an accordion for the amusement of the camera to his many onscreen anti-Semitic rants and conspiracy theories, Schroeder allows the affable and frequently boisterous Ugandan dictator to slit his own throat, so to speak -- at least as far as ...
Fascinating, surreal, funny, horrifying, and ultimately mind-boggling when one tries to figure out how director Barbet Schroeder and his crew managed to capture "self-styled" dictator General Idi Amin in all his infamous glory. From scenes of the notorious butcher playing an accordion for the amusement of the camera to his many onscreen anti-Semitic rants and conspiracy theories, Schroeder allows the affable and frequently boisterous Ugandan dictator to slit his own throat, so to speak -- at least as far as public relations go. The Criterion Collection's disc is superb and is a welcomed addition to their ever-growing catalog of excellent releases. The film is presented in its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and has been digitally remastered (supervised by the director himself) from the 16 mm Ektachrome original. This new transfer has given the film a brighter, more colorful enhancement. The film's soundtrack has likewise been given a much-needed restoration, erasing many of the audio noise that had marred it in the past. The disc also includes a great video interview with Schroeder. He talks at length about the multitude of problems he and the crew endured while making the film, some of the events that they were not allowed to film (like Amin's meeting with the Black September terrorists), and the general surrealism of hanging out with one of the more notorious and bizarre political figures to haunt the late 20th century. The director also talks about his desire to make a sequel, catching up with Amin at his present home in Saudi Arabia. The disc also includes liner notes, a timeline of Ugandan history, and a list of cuts that the dictator insisted be made to the film when he found out that people were laughing during screenings of the feature.
New digital transfer, supervised by director Barbet Schroeder; Exclusive new video interview with Barbet Schroeder; Timeline of Ugandan history; Documentation of Idi Amin's requested cuts to the film; English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired
The commanding presence of the natural actor General Idi Amin Dada dominates every frame of this of-its-time documentary. He is large and forceful, but surprisingly well-spoken, and it's obvious he thinks about things quite a bit. Some of his ideas are dangerous (he smiles approvingly when informing director/interviewer Barbet Schroeder that he knows the Palestinians are training "suicide teams" to terrorize Israel) and simply blue-sky nutty (as when he expresses a desire to teach Swahili to all of the African-Americans in the U.S. so as to foment a secret revolution). It's also very funny to notice that during a swim competition, the burly dictator-for-life miraculously wins against a half-dozen competitors who are much younger and much more svelte. Who wants to beat a guy who could, in the blink of an eye, order your execution for offending him? Not that Amin Dada does anything near that in this "self-portrait" -- there are scenes of military executions without Amin Dada present -- but it's interesting to see that although he has four wives and 18 children, no one in the entire film comes close to him in a friendly manner, chats casually with him, or regards him without obvious fear. The narrative structure barely holds up -- there are long periods of uninteresting material and no inherent drama -- but for those who want to see a despot in action, this offers one-of-a-kind candid insights. Amin Dada's cannibalism, which became a hot topic for a while in the late '70s, isn't addressed.
Side #1 --
Play the Movie
Barbet Schroeder Interview
Interest in Amin
Almendros & the Crew