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

Brugger said that the right disguise was needed to move around the country. “If I were to say, as a diplomat, I’m here because I want to invest in illegal diamonds… that would be very undiplomatic of me. On the other hand, I am working on setting up a match factory, people will think ‘how very sweet and naive, but he’s probably an idiot.’”

Predictably, Brugger got himself into a lot of precarious situations, and a few didn’t make the film. He cites one example of being stopped by police when returning home from a nightclub and brought to a “medieval-looking police station” and interrogated by an officer who “was clearly on drugs while the radio was playing Barbie Girl by Aqua.”

“They thought we were mercenaries and talked about transferring us to the central prison in Bangui,” a notorious place that Brugger said “you will not get out of as a coherent human being.” They were eventually released.


The Ambassador, the festival’s opening movie, has generated a lot of discussion since it was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. “People who are turned off with the film are uncomfortable with the way I employ comedy and humor in the film because it is making fun of pygmies, for instance,” Brugger said. “It’s outside of most people’s comfort zone. But most people realize that if I hadn’t made the film the way I made it, they would have never seen a film about what is going on in the Central African Republic.”

After The Ambassador was released, there were a few people that weren’t very happy with it, including many people in power in Liberia. “The president of Liberia said on a number of occasions that he wanted Denmark to arrest and extradite me,” Brugger said.

“He said he would form a commission on how it was possible for me to purchase a diplomatic passport. But I think along the line they realized that if they do start this investigation, they are basically digging their own grave.”

While there have been critics, Brugger said that he enjoys the reactions of Africans the most when they view The Ambassador. “A film like this is a divider. Some people hate it. Some people love it. What’s important for me is that more than most of the Africans I’ve met that have seen the film are very excited about it,” he said. “They support the film and think the film is a landmark film in the way it documents the practicalities of corruption.”

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