March 15, 2007

Idi Rafael Amin Frías

Quico says: I went to see The Last King of Scotland the other day and frankly I didn't much like it. I thought the script was poor and the plot was contrived and insufferably Hollywoodesque. What got on my nerves the most, though, is how weirdly politics-free it was, considering the subject. It's an old pet peeve of mine, this gringo inability to quite grasp that politics take place in poor countries.

I was still curious about Amin, though; it's an itch that Last King of Scotland singularly failed to scratch. So I went poking around the internet for archival footage of the man. Then I hit the motherlode:

This documentary - produced way back in the day by France's Le Figaro media group - is 90 minutes long, and granted, most of it is just Amin talking. But it's gripping. For long stretches, I just couldn't look away.

Scroll to 8 minutes in and see him anecdotizing just before pledging to arm Uganda to the teeth. Or go to 31 minutes in and check out the electricity in the air, the sheer sense of menace, as Amin rants at his cabinet. Then go up to 1:08 and hear his promise to send Foreign Aid from Uganda to England, plus his plans for a kind of Ugandan Telesur.

The easy charm, the love affair with the camera, the populist ranting, the screwball anecdotes, the weird doctrinal intensity, the messianic streak...there's no mistaking the Chavezian overtones in all of this. If anything, with his calm, collected public speaking style, Amin comes across as a lot less crazy than Chávez - though, in fairness, he also says some stuff that's way more bizarre than anything Chávez has come up with so far.

One reader writes in to note "For the record -- Last King of Scotland was not a film made by gringos. Director/production company are British."

Another adds:
Too bad you didn't watch Last King of Scotland in Caracas. I did, and there is a scene about halfway through when Idi Amin talks about how he never wanted to be president, how he only did it because the people wanted it, and how he is doing it for love.

The whole fully packed cinema just cracked up in laughter...