Idi Amin Dada: A Self Portrait (1974)
d. Barbet Schroeder
Criterion Collection #153
Idi Amin Dada: A Self Portrait plays better as a farce then an expose. The story of the making of Idi Amin is probably better known then the content of the film itself. French director Schroeder (who would become well known in the US a decade plus later for Reversal of Fortune) was invited by Amin himself to come to Uganda and shoot a documentary. One imagines that he had something like The Triumph of the Will in mind.but that is not what he got. Instead, Schroeder created a fairly straight forward documentary that largely consists of Amin talking at the camera. In terms of impact Amin comes off more like a parody of a genocidal tyrant then and actual tyrant, although the comic element is undercut by Schroeder's off screen commentary.
In one particularly intriguing seen, Amin lectures his assembled cabinet and singles out the foreign minister for criticism. While you are listening it's hard to take Amin seriously- he sounds like a pompous high school teacher, but then Schroeder tells you that said foreign minister was found shot to death in the Nile river a month later and suddenly Amin looks terrifying.
Idi Amin Dada is filled with such queasy/funny moments. It is hard to really find comedy in someone so obviously psychotic and when you add in his penchant for extra judicial murder it can be at times hard to watch. But it is, I think, the definitive film on the phenomenon of the 20th century African Strong Man dictator, and will be watched forever for that reason.