Thu, Apr 25, 2013 - Page 12 News List

The practicalities of corruption

The Urban Nomad Film Fest opens tomorrow with a screening of ‘The Ambassador,’ an audacious yet hysterical documentary about procuring blood diamonds in the Central African Republic, and a question-and-answer session with its director Mads Brugger

By Marcus Aurelius  /  Contributing reporter

Scenes from Mads Brugger’s documentary The Ambassador.

Photo courtesy of Urban Nomad

The Urban Nomad Film Festival was born 12 years ago when good friends Sean Scanlan and David Frazier started doing events with an artistic element to them. “We wanted to get away from just beer and girls,” Frazier said.

“It basically started because we had an abandoned warehouse where we could hang a screen and bring in turntables to create a trippy, visual party,” Scanlan added. “Some of the graffiti works from the parties in the early days still exists, which is interesting considering all the changes Huashan has undergone.”

The first few years of Urban Nomad were weekends with friends who made short films and a projection booth with stacks of VHS tapes. “In 2007, we went to a full week,” said Frazier. “That was the same time we started trying to figure out how to source feature films. Now we are getting films that have premiered at Sundance.”


This year’s Urban Nomad is spread out over two weeks and starts off with a bang because of the screening of the controversial documentary The Ambassador, as well as a question-and-answer session with director Mads Brugger.

In the film, Brugger buys a Liberian diplomatic passport and heads to the Central African Republic. “In 2007, I began researching the selling and buying of diplomatic credentials and passports,” said Brugger in a Skype interview with the Taipei Times. “Then I realized that if this is possible, it would grant me access to a very closed and secretive environment which you never get to see in most documentaries. This is the inner sanctuaries and hallways of power in a failed African state.”

He continued, “In a way, a diplomat is a kind of super journalist. They have access to people and power. They know rumors and have access to key personas. This is what journalists can only dream about. I thought it was a very thrilling idea.”

Festival notes

What: Urban Nomad Film Fest

When and Where: Starts at 7pm tomorrow with a screening of The Ambassador followed by a question-and-answer session with director Mads Brugger. All screenings will take place at Spot Huashan cinema in the Huashan 1914 Creative Park (華山1914), 1, Bade Rd Sec 1, Taipei City (台北市八德路一段1號). The festival runs through May 5

Admission: Advance tickets are NT$200 each or four tickets for NT$720 and can be purchased at Tickets are available at the door for screenings that aren’t sold out

On the Net:

Brugger has no qualms about making himself a character in his movies. “In my films, I am a piece of fiction myself, but everything around me is very much for real,” he said. “I would call this hybrid films. It’s fact and reality with elements of fiction.”

When coming up with the ideas for his movies, Brugger tries to ad-lib the plot. “We don’t plan much,” he said. “That’s why I consider my films to be documentaries because for me the definition of documentaries is where you are open to change and to whatever reality throws at you. What I do is plan and elaborate a lot on the characters I play. Then I also construct situations and scenarios which are plot generating, which will cause a lot of game play to happen.”

Brugger added, “Going to North Korea with a spastic handicapped comedian will definitely generate narrative,” he said, referring to The Red Chapel, another of his documentaries that will be screened at Urban Nomad.


“In the Central African Republic, a day is like a week in the States or anywhere else,” Brugger said when he was detailing some of the troubles he had. “The Central African Republic is basically a place where everyone is using everybody. It’s the end station of corruption. It’s the final stage of corruption.”

Aware of this fact, Brugger was constantly able to outsmart swindlers by using their greed as a plot device. “As with most diplomats, I would have several agendas. It is noble for diplomats to have a pro bono, do good agenda,” he said. “They want to stop starvation or HIV or they’re setting up a hospital to inoculate these children with this vaccine and so on. And besides that, they are engaged in ruthless exploitation of the natural resources of the place.”

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