SCR Maja Jul Larsen, Mads Brügger
CAM Johan Stahl Winthereik
EDS Carsten Søsted, Kimmo Taavila, Leif Axel Kjeldsen
PROD CO Zentropa Real ApS
Amazing what money can buy. For less than $200,000 Danish filmmaker Mads Brügger became the Liberian ambassador to the Central African Republic. His newly acquired peers in the diplomatic community barely raise an eyebrow at the apparent incongruity of this pale, short, bald-headed European parading around Africa in jodhpurs and riding boots. And if they smell a rat, no one is about to squeal. This impoverished dictatorship is home to some of the world’s richest diamond mines, and diplomatic immunity is well known to be the safest trafficking strategy for blood diamonds.
VIFF audiences will recognize Brügger from audience favourite The Red Chapel, his sneak peek into North Korea. But The Ambassador is an even riskier enterprise, a stunt that calls on him to combine the satiric skills of Sacha Baron Cohen while consorting with ruthless mercenaries, corrupt government officials, professional smugglers and (ahem) international diplomats. One interviewee—the Republic’s head of internal security—is assassinated during the shoot. Brügger risks alienating his audience too, devising a cover story to set up a match factory staffed by pygmies—a plan he admits will never come to pass. If it’s often uncomfortable viewing, that is how it should be: truth-telling can be an ugly business. But this provocative documentary is also utterly compelling, awfully funny and painfully sobering. (As an aside, the Liberian government has recently decided to take legal action against Brügger.)