As a reminder, we have no age limit when it comes to Documentaries at Gorgon Reviews. They can be old as fuck and I might want to review them for my website. And some times, instead of a documentary, I will review a foreign film on a Thursday, just to keep things interesting.
In the case of The Ambassador, well, it isn’t super old, but it is 2011. Half a decade ago! But hey, it also happens to be a foreign documentary. That’s a double whammy here. I watched it with subtitles. Sometimes they spoke English, sometimes not English, but I read the whole dang thing. The reason I am watching The Ambassador is because I bought it blindly at a sale. It was a $3 Blu-Ray, so my deal alarms went off and I just snatched it up. If I didn’t watch it right away to review, that $3 value would have evaporated into thin air as the movie entered my DVD Case, most likely never to be seen again.
Shit, that just got dark. Hopefully The Ambassador is a cheery documentary about nice things and happy thoughts!
The Ambassador is about a real live journalist, Mads Brügger, from Denmark. I don’t know if he was famous before this documentary, I don’t know if he became famous after this documentary. But he wanted to talk about corruption in Africa and blood diamonds. He wanted to do some of that investigative journalism, putting his own butt on the line to tell the story. And tell the story he did! With hidden and visible cameras.
First thing I need to make clear is that Brügger is a man who was born in Denmark and lived there hist whole life. Sure he has traveled, but he is Danish through and through. Repetition of this fact is important, because to expose corrupt government officials, Brügger is going to become a political ambassador. Not from Denmark, but from Liberia, an African country, with his goal to become the Ambassador to the Central African Republic. A really ballsy goal. And a strange one.
This feels like a movie with that plot line. I already can’t believe this super white guy can do any of this.
But he blends in so naturally with the natives.
So how does any of this work out? Well, first, if you are stupidly wealthy and European, there are people who want to talk to you. You can pay an absurd amount of money to become an ambassador or consul of a poor struggling nation. The funds you pay go to the nation (And the people who broker the deal) and they have openings that need to be filled. Now of course, if you become a representative of a country, you can not just go and do illegal things. That will make them mad at you and bad things will happen.
But this is corruption we are talking about! Of course people will do bad things. But his idea is to go to the Central African Republic (CAR), pretend to want to set up a match making factory, but instead secretly get into the diamond business. Once he gets involved with diamond people, he can get uncut, unlicensed diamonds, sneak them out of the country to wherever he wants, and take them home. It isn’t easy, CAR is a dangerous country with government issues. But it isn’t super hard either. A lot of people are willing to help him out, because it means they can make money on the side as well.
And honestly, money is the greatest way to get things to go your way.
Needless to say, some of the things Brügger are able to do end up being quite shocking. By the end I was surprised. I was more surprised that this thing was even released, because certainly it will make government agents at various places around the world quite pissed off. And some rich people as well.
I am watching this film five years after the fact though. I don’t know if this documentary led to any change about anything. It is still crazy that just anyone (with money) could do something like that and gain some diplomatic immunity.
My biggest problem with this documentary though is that it is incredibly hard to really follow, especially early on. They talk to a whole lot of people, some of which are important, some of which are not. Names are hard to remember, which part of the process is happening gets confusing and it is just a struggle to keep up. I figured out most of it by the end…kind of. But man, I was lost constantly. I was scared to even write this review, wondering what I would say when I had to descrbe the movie.
The answer was keep it vague, stall in the beginning, and talk about how insane of an idea this was in the first place. Brügger could have been killed. He could be dead right now for all I know. But Journalism is sexy and sometimes you gotta take some risks.