Undercover reporting. Hidden cameras. Blood diamonds. Hundreds of thousands of dollars. Shady backroom deals. Central African Republic. A tribe of drunk Pygmies.
Do we have your attention?
Some documentaries are more dangerous than others. The ambition of "The Ambassador" seems not only dangerous, but kind of nuts. Danish filmmaker, reporter, Sundance award winner and all-around crazy person, Mads Brugger, has returned to the world of documentary with a plan. He wants to pay off diplomatic brokers for paperwork, allowing him to set up shop in the volatile environment of Central African Republic. From there, he'll set up a business front in the form of a matchstick company. If all goes well, he'll be able to ship out the product he actually wants: blood diamonds. He will do this with silent support from the upper echelons of the local African government. What could go wrong?
He calls what he does "performance journalism," and that sounds about right. This is Brugger showing off his skill as an undercover filmmaker and actor. Every scene sees our host dressed in a flashy expensive suit, pouring drinks for men he should definitely not be secretly filming, greasing the palm of a very important political figure, and wielding a cigarette holder. Whether he's playing a constantly cool customer, or just a good post-production editor, Brugger makes it look easy as he's driven around the capitol city of Bangui, en route to meeting one unsavoury character after another.
His mission is to expose the abuse that developed nations can unleash on a country failed in human rights, finance and state. The film shines light on the corruption that money, politics, diplomats and ambassadors are capable of if given the perfect storm to play in.
His adventures may provide ample uneasiness, but they're also hard to walk out on. His confidence is infectiously watchable and there is something kind of funny about the whole thing. Nothing like the threat of being torn apart by machine gun fire and being left for dead in a ditch to make both Mads, and you the viewer, feel alive. But forget the threat: the booze is cheap, the diamonds are apparently on the way, there are suitcases of money floating around for men with important titles, and a tribe of pygmies is all set to staff the matchstick company that will cover up the diamond stuff.
You may have a hard time wrapping your mind around what Brugger has done here, but if you truly stop and appreciate the genius, you will become an instant fan.
Fri, May 4, 4:45 p.m. TIFF Bell Lightbox 2
Sat, May 5, 9:00 p.m. The Regent
Full schedule of Hot Docs screenings Hot Docs Day 7: 'The Final Member' Hot Docs Day 6: 'We Are Legion: The Story Of The Hacktivists' Hot Docs Day 5: 'The Queen Of Versailles' Hot Docs Day 4: 'Bones Brigade: An Autobiography' Hot Docs Day 3: 'Beauty Is Embarrassing' Hot Docs Day 2: 'Beware Of Mr. Baker' Hot Docs Day 1: "Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry"