Talk Africa [Through the Western Eye] : “Ambassador”
The Ambassador, or The Diplomat, depending on whose article you are reading is Mads Brugger’s response to the NGO heavy market of African documentaries. In a morally complicated film, Brugger buys a diplomat position in the Central Republic of Africa, and also buys a case full of diamonds, all to show just how corruption works. When interviewed by the Washington Post, Brugger says that his targets were not only other foreign diplomats but also NGOs for some interesting reasons. After watching the trailer, I wondered if Central Republic ended up as an unintended target as well.
In the trailer, we see Brugger apply, and pay for a diplomat position in the Central Republic. There doesn’t seem to be an interview, or a weighing of his qualifications. From the very beginning it seems very clear that scruples may not be an important qualification for this position. Throughout the next few frames, another man is heard telling Brugger that there are real benefits of diplomacy but that a consequence of doing the job wrong is death.
Brugger is seen talking with various people, sitting in rooms with large rolls of money, shaking hands when a deal has been reached. Meetings are held in what looks like hotel rooms, and money is carried in bags and cases, all signs of illegitimacy. Finally, towards the end of the trailer the audience sees a silver briefcase, the sort relegated to James Bond movies, in Brugger’s hands, and another shot of diamonds glittering from a crisp white cloth.
We know from the beginning he gets the diamonds so we know that is not the point of the movie. So, what is the point? This is what I gathered from the trailer and the interview. Brugger is a Dutch journalist who believes that it is important to show audiences the kind of chaos a foreign diplomat can cause in a fragile nation, especially where this kind of corruption is commonplace. So what we see as a developing nation, someone else sees as an opportunity.
That same kind of opportunity seems to be extended to NGOs. Brugger believes that NGOs come into African nations and film documentaries about devastation and plight as a way to do good by showing the blackest of the black; a concept many Africans are tired of. Here on Africa is done Suffering, we gnash our teeth at the one sided representation of African nations as poverty stricken, diseased and dying, and in need of international intervention. Brugger implies that these representations are necessary if NGOs and their ‘work’ is to continue. If you present a problem as having no solution but relief aid, then the money will keep coming.