BARBET SCHROEDER SPECIAL!!!
GENERAL IDI AMIN DADA: A SELF PORTRAIT (1974)
In 1974, French filmmaker Barbet Schroeder travelled to Uganda to make a film about the nation’s charismatic yet ruthless President, Idi Amin, during the height of his bloody reign, and the result proved to be one of the most fascinating insights into the life of a dictator.
Three years into his regime that would be responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Ugandans, Amin prepared an elaborate greeting for the filmmakers, staging rallies, military maneuvers, and cheery displays of national pride, and envisioning the film as an official portrait to adorn his cult of personality.
Schroeder, however, had other ideas, emerging with a disquieting, caustically funny brief against Amin, in which the dictator’s own endless stream of testimony – sometimes charming, other times menacing and, occasionally, nonsensical – serves as the most damning evidence.
An engrossing and revelatory tug-of-war between the formidable subject and the filmmaker, General Idi Amin Dada: A Self-Portrait served well as a reference point for any history buffs out there, and is a landmark in the art of documentary and an appalling study of egotism in power.
FINAL JUDGEMENT: 8/10 Jeff Goldblums
KOKO: A TALKING GORILLA (1978)
**In memory of Koko (1971-2018)**
In the late seventies, acclaimed director Barbet Schroeder and cinematographer Nestor Almendros gave us one of the most captivating documentaries in Koko: A Talking Gorilla.
The film introduced the world to its most famous primate, Koko, soon after she was brought from the San Francisco Zoo to Stanford University by Dr. Penny Patterson for a controversial experiment – she would be taught the basics of human communication through American Sign Language.
I myself have never been a passionate animal lover, but nonetheless it would be disingenuous of me to say that Koko: A Talking Gorilla isn’t worth your time. It’s an engaging, occasionally troubling, and still relevant piece of documentary filmmaking, shedding light on the ongoing ethical and philosophical debates over the individual rights of animals whilst also bringing us face-to-face with an amazing specimen caught in the middle.
FINAL JUDGEMENT: 8.5/10 Jeff Goldblums