The problem with watching a film like Last King of Scotland, is that you know how it ends. Just as when watching Shooting Dogs or Hotel Rwanda, we all know what eventually happens. We all know that the cheers and exhilaration that greeted the charismatic Idi Amin's rise to power will soon be severely tempered by the babarous side of Amin's persona. Without knowing anyting about post-colonial Ugandan history, it's always been that way in Africa. Africans ove the next regime more than the last. So as the characters all crack jokes, full of jovial asides, patting each other on the back in revolutionary solidarity, I sit as an audience member, tense, waiting for the inevitable to happen.
No more. I had nightmares after watching Last King of Scotland, thinking that militias were coming after me. That kind of thing just isn't good for my constitution. One reviewer on the radio call Africa's place in films "the place where anything goes". You have government brutality, government corruption, corporate corruption writ large (Constant Gardener), lawlessness. There is no redemption for the African. And to add insult to injury, Africa is still the white man's burden. Be it Constant Gardener, Blood Diamond (Dicaprio's a Rhodie though), Last King of Scotland: only the white man wants to save Africa.
Go to Africa, and you can shoot a film with everything in it. I think I've reached saturation point. I want to watch a comedy set in Africa, a romance set in Africa. Enough of the brutal dictators, genocides, corrupt governments, corrupt people, let's see a human story. Let's see a lightening of the dark continent.
Last King of Scotland is still a good story. Forest Whitaker should win an Oscar for it. His protrayal of Amin as a charming, yet brutal man is earth shattering. You can feel him lovingly clasping you in his bossom, yet you could still be crushed in that same clasp. It's a frightening place to be. The director, Kevin MacDonald captures 70s Africa with a beauty I haven't seen before. This was a continent full of hope. The decrepit thieving postcolonial presidents had been replaced by idealistic military regimes - so everyone thought. Only for the yoke of military rule to crush the spirit of a continent even more forcefully. The music is before my time, but still nostalgic. Buy it!
Babel. Babel. Babel. Alejandro González Iñárritu's last film in the "death trilogy" (Amores Perros, 21 Grams, the first two), is a painful film. There are moments of touching poignance, such as the wedding scene in Mexico (they were spraying money!), the peeing scene (watch to see what I mean), even the knickerless terrorism (no spoilers here). But none of these detract from the pain of miscommunication. How often have you travelled somewhere and you have trouble explaining to the waiter that you'd like the beef well done, not slightly mooing? Now think of a life and death situation, think of preconceived prejudices, and you have Babel. We all spoke the same language, we tried to build a tower to the heavens, God scattered us for our audacity, and now we miscommunicate in a variety of ways.
The doom and gloom is enough to almost make me want to watch a Nollywood home video, but not quite.