RIFF Review: The Ambassador
In The Ambassador Danish director Mads Brügger goes undercover as a diplomat for Liberia to the Central African Republic (sometimes referred to as CAR) where his purpose is to build a match factory, a front for him to get blood diamonds and smuggle them out of the country. Well, not really.
Brügger is a Danish journalist-filmmaker who previously made the movie The Red Chapel, where he managed to con his way into North Korea and explore the situation there. This time he’s in one of Africa’s poorest and most dangerous countries. Of course he isn’t *really* going to smuggle diamonds out of the country but rather see how far he can go and how much corruption he can document.
The Ambassador has been described by the director himself as “Borat meets The Economist.” This makes for an interesting, and often very funny, mix but the results are a bit of mixed bag. Brügger is a charming and funny guy and often does a good job of showing the absurdity of the situation and how fucked up things are in the CAR. But it also feels like he never really goes deep enough. The corruption is obvious early on and the film eventually feels repetitive. Brügger also spends a little too much time on showing stuff like him trying to get a copy of a (very illegal) contract or teaching the locals how to make matches. These are not that important parts of the story and drag the movie down.
Overall, it feels too much like we’re not getting the whole story, with too many questions unanswered (like most importantly, where does Brügger get all the money he uses to bribe all the government officials? We’re talking hundreds of thousands of dollars here) and the movie is often confusing as the details start to get really complicated and are not always explained well enough.
The film can be described as some sort of cross between a mockumentary and a documentary with Brügger himself and the character he’s playing being the mock part and everything else being real. But while clearly most of it is real there are parts that feel a little staged and make you wonder how much of it really is real. Brügger also rushes things a little too much in the end and the ending feels too loose and open.
Still, The Ambassador is mostly a pretty enjoyable affair and certainly informative and thought-provoking. But it feels like even more interesting things could have been done with this subject.
Final Verdict: The subject matter is fascinating and the film is often very funny butThe Ambassador leaves you with too many questions unanswered and is often confusing.