05 April 2011

5 April- "But you did not persuade me, Nicolas! You did not persuade me!"

The Last King of Scotland (2006)
dir. Kevin Macdonald

Forest Whitaker (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, 1982)
James McAvoy (Atonement, 2007)
Kerry Washington (Fantastic Four, 2005)
Gillian Anderson (Princess Mononoke (voice: American version), 1997)
Simon McBurney (The Golden Compass, 2007)
David Oyelowo (The Help, 2011)

Holy shit! I watched a real movie with a REAL SERIOUS plotline that's BASED ON REAL LIFE and it's not a comedy, there's no science fiction OR fantasy OR animation at all.

It's been a while, gang. I guess the last one that counts for all that is Dirty Pretty Things, which I watched a whole month ago.

Why do we like movies about Africa? The first reason is the soundtracks, and I will call out shenanigans if you say different. The first reason is the soundtracks and so here is John William's "Dry Your Tears, Afrika" from the movie Amistad, you may play it while you enjoy the rest of my writing here.

The other reason, I'm pretty sure, it what one of my more advanced colleagues today called "Poverty Tourism" and that has to do with the catharsis we (and I apologize if I am incorrectly categorizing you with myself) get when we someone doing worse off than us. I think that analysis might be applicable to The Last King of Scotland, especially because while Forest Whitaker is on the DVD cover, the protagonist is young and pale James McAvoy who keeps us all grounded in this adventure of African politics.

I may watch this movie again someday and pay particular attention to the portrayal of the English in this movie. The filmmakers were quite right in remembering that you cannot talk about African politics without referring to the legacy of colonialism and reminding us how difficult it is, to paraphrase Audra Lourde, to use the master's tools to unmake the master's house. Those English guys are smarmy folks, we are introduced to Simon McBurney's character when he tells the protagonist that a firm hand is all the African understands. As Amin's true fearsome characters becomes gradually revealed, the English, however, quickly appear to be the lesser of two evils, but evil nonetheless. McAvoy goes to the Englishman Stone to ask for help fleeing Uganda, and Stone tells McAvoy that he has to murder the president, leading to a series of events culminating into the climax of the film.

So who's the real villian, is it Stone representing the patriarchal colonial powers meddling in affairs that shouldn't concern them, or is it President Amin, a soldier placed in a position of authority consolidating his authority through a regime of terror? Can one exist without the other?

I think what we are meant to understand is that Amin is very bad guy, unfortunately, he never had a chance, and if he had resisted the power and the corruption someone else would have taken that role anyway. I think what we are meant to understand is that these dictators are inventions of historical context and colonialism, no different from the invented countries and the invented tribes that they terrorize.

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