2012 Sundance Docs in Focus: THE AMBASSADOR

My spotlight on this year’s World Cinema Documentary Competition continues with the second of four films that also screened at IDFA in November: THE AMBASSADOR, from Denmark’s master provocateur Mads Brügger, an exposé of corruption and international diplomacy.

Sundance Program Description:

An enigmatic and decadent white diplomat arrives in central Africa sporting dark glasses, riding boots, and a cigarette holder. He has recently bought an ambassadorship and claims to be a do-good rich businessman spearheading a diplomatic mission. Officially, he is there to start a factory that will employ locals to produce matches. Unofficially, he has really come to gain access to the area’s vast reserves of diamonds. It soon becomes apparent that, in this postcolonial economy, nearly everyone is out to rip off everyone else, and the dangers become all too real.

Mads Brügger returns to the Sundance Film Festival (THE RED CHAPEL won the World Cinema documentary Jury Prize in 2010) with yet another brilliant example of gonzo filmmaking. Armed with a diplomatic passport, a hidden camera, and his razor-sharp wit, he risks life and limb to uncover deep-rooted corruption that allows others to continue to get rich from Africa’s resources. THE AMBASSADOR is a genre-breaking tragicomedy that establishes Brügger as a singular voice in the documentary world.

Some Background:
As noted above, Brügger made a successful trip to Park City two years ago with the audacious THE RED CHAPEL, his first documentary feature, which also displayed what’s been called “performative journalism” – a kind of radical extension of George Plimpton’s own brand of “participatory journalism.” On the producing team are Sundance alums Carsten Holst, whose 1/2 REVOLUTION is also in competition this year; and Peter Engel, who also produced THE RED CHAPEL. Co-producer Tomas Eskilsson has also been to Sundance before in the same role with Thomas Vinterberg’s IT’S ALL ABOUT LOVE (2003), Michael Winterbottom’s THE KILLER INSIDE ME (2010), and Susanne Bier’s Academy Award-winning IN A BETTER WORLD (2011).

Why You Should Watch:
I previously wrote about the film out of IDFA here. This is very much one of the must-see docs of this year’s lineup.

More Info:
Check out the film’s website and Facebook page. Its trailer may be found here. For screening dates and times at Sundance, click the link in the first paragraph.


Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

4 responses to “2012 Sundance Docs in Focus: THE AMBASSADOR

  1. Phyllis

    I was really blown away by this film. I think the filmmaker was just as dishonest as the African people he was trying to expose. People were trusting him and believing in him and he was deceiving them throughout the film. The Pygmies were trusting him to help them start a match factory and he knew no factory would ever be started. I would go as far as to say he is a psychopath, not caring about the people in the film. He tells us afterwards that he gave his diamond money to the Pygmies but honestly that is hard for me to believe. If someone from a developed first world country is going to go work in Africa, he should not be adding to their problems but should be helping them have a better life. He is WORSE than the colonialists.

  2. Don Quichote

    Brugger is a pretentious arrogant bribery agitator who should be arrested and sentenced for intentionally paying money to incite people bribing government official in Third World Countries. According to the Danish law (Criminal Code 21) an offense of bribery is complete when a bribe is promised or offered, regardless of whether the bribe is accepted or received by the public official. According to section 93 the statute of limitations for bribery of foreign public officials is five years for an individual, whereas it is two years for a legal person. Brugger falsely accuses others of bribery but for his own glory he incites people to do so enabling him to produce a documentary with public fund and sell it for big money. Isn’t this an Act of Crime or has the world changed in Denmark when Danish citizen publicly ridicules and insults the Africans. The Danish government has butter on its head and does not do anything to stop this lunatic. The coward filmed with hidden cameras and taped confidential conversations and now he is too chicken to collect his diplomatic credentials. What a big fake.

  3. Don Quichote

    The Ambassador is subversive and incendiary documentary film in which the maker Brugger unveils himself as an unscrupulous forger with the sole intention to purposely damage the interest of individuals and governments for his own glory to sell his product. The film is produced with public money from the Danish Filminstitute and financed/produced with a budget of €1 million by Lars Von Trier (Zentropa), a controversial film-director who admitted to journalists in Cannes in 2011 to being a Nazi, understanding Hitler. Organizers were not amused and declared him a persona no grata to the same festival. Under influence/inspiration of Von Trier’s ideology, Danish journalist Brugger purposefully took several steps beyond the rules, both written and unwritten. It is clearly a documentary film based on fascistic roots. Take a look at a photo in Politiken
    and see how Brugger presents himself like a neo Nazi on horseback. That explains why he hates Africans and ridicules the TWA pygmy people. Brugger used hidden cameras and false pretences to record and film confidential meetings and telephone conversations without informing his victims or asking them permission or approval by means of adversarial response. Then he edited a documentary film with a specific “Tunnel Vision” to transform a fantasy-fetish into reality to proof his mistrust under the slogan “The end justifies the means!”.

  4. lol

    FYI: thats willem tjissen talking about nazzis under his alias don Quichote. You can follow his trail of diffamation with simple google search of the words madds brugger persona no grata. you will start to see some patterns.

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