Either Mads Brügger has balls the size of grapefruits or there is mondo chicanery going on in The Ambassador. Well, it’s a given that there is trickery happening, so the thing to figure out is who the trick is on: The Central African Republic (a former French colony smack-dab in the middle of the contient), shady European dealers of grey-market diplomatic credentials, helpful local guide-advisers or us the viewers. The result is a thoroughly captivating, often hilarious bit of guerrilla filmmaking that is subversive both to its subject matter, and its medium of choice.
Lets start at the beginning. Mads Brügger Cortzen is a Danish media personality that is kind of an amalgamation of Michael Moore and the Borat side of Sasha-Baron Cohen. His previous TV documentary/comedies, Danes for Bush and Red Chapel explored the political and social landscapes of the United States during the 2004 election and the social and propaganda mores of North Korea, respectively, both by on-the-ground insertion in a particular form of misdirection of intent. I’ve not seen either of these films (nor his TV Talk Show, The Eleventh Hour) but I want to see them all based on the brains and brawn exhibited in The Ambassador. Here, Brügger goes to the Central African Republic to set up a (blood) diamond smuggling operation fronted by building a match factory. He gets his contacts and credentials by spending $30,000 to some rich European brokers who have a side-business in selling diplomatic papers from one African country (here, Liberia) to another (CAR). Then, donning an expensive tan suit, mirror shades and polished burgundy riding boots, the new diplomat-entrepreneur is ready to get some old-school colonial exploitation happening. Over the course of the film, Brügger, with his ‘trusty’ adviser Paul (a CAR local), and his beautiful white secretary, dispense many ‘envelopes of happiness’ to people on the political and business scene in Bangui. He tours parts of the country, visits other diplomats for advice, and eventually works his way up to meetings with the ministers of defense and security. The latter being the son of the president of CAR, François Bozizé. What is crazy about the whole thing is that our consul-in-training is going by his real name, something that anyone in the Central African Republic could have found with a simple Google search in five minutes. Why Brügger is not dead in a ditch somewhere is beyond me. Either that or the joke is on me. It is a joke told with enough chutzpah and style that it perhaps does not even matter.
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