The Last King of Scotland

We went to see Last King of Scotland  the other night. It was a brilliant portrayal of Idi Amin I must say.  Forest Whitaker did such a good job bringing him to life and attempting to capture the complexity of the man.

Deka was annoyed at the fact that certain historical events were glossed over, like the role of the British in Ugandan politics and the expulsion of the Indians from Uganda. It’s true a more detailed look at Ugandan politics could have been done but I don’t think that is what the movie was supposed to be about. I think her main concern was that Amin would be seen by (white) people as a caricature of an African despot, nothing more, but I think she may need to give people more credit. (I hope). We also need to stop being so hypersensitive to negative portrayals of Black people. Idi Amin was not a good man by any stretch of the imagination. Despite some positive things he may have done, he did many, many  horrible things. We cannot be apologists for people like him, he created his own legacy.

On the same hand we need to remember that African politics are very complex and layered. The people of Uganda hailed the removal of Milton Obote for a reason –

One question that I think is valid to ask is why a movie like this was made…?  Was it strictly because of the story?  An interesting look at a dictator’s personality?  Or was it perhaps trying to capture something else – something more along the lines of the essential humanity of even the maddest of us.

I don’t know how I feel about these types of movies.  They are interesting,  but then I am so removed from the whole story.  I don’t know anyone from Uganda, I certainly never lost anyone to Idi Amin’s quest for power.  A movie like Hotel Rwanda can serve to be a reminder to people of the cost of hatred, but does a movie like this have the same effect?   Be interesting to try and find some opinions from the people of Uganda….

Anyways, I don’t know if portrayal of Amin as a 3 dimensional person will actually make a difference but I do know that demonizing someone doesn’t solve the problem either. When we do that we remove the humanity from the situation and effectively remove any hope for understanding how such people are created.

Similarly another Hitler will never be prevented if we cannot look at what led to his creation in the first place.  I some ways it is the people who surround men like this that are the interesting players.  Without being backed by people a dictator’s power is limited.   I fully understand why survivor’s of the holocaust may not give a damn about Hitler’s humanity, but at some point in time we are going to have to examine it and ours in relation to it if we are to change anything in this world.  Ignoring them certainly hasn’t seemed to stop them from springing up all over the place.

We cannot caricaturize people who do horrible things. At the same time we cannot glamourize them. We should always be seeking to learn from the past, not just acknowledging it and then moving on.  After the Jewish Holocaust the refrain heard around the world was “never again”.  But Holocausts have happended again – perhaps not on such grand proportions, but it has happend.  Bosnia and Rwanda are just two that spring to mind.  So what did we learn from WWII if we are still seeing things like this happening?   

Sometimes I see clearly that it is we who create these individuals – they are born out of our deepest darkest desires, our most twisted fantasies. At some point there were individuals who sat back and let atrocities occur – watched them being perpetrated and did absolutely nothing to stop it.  If this is the case then looking at ourselves in the mirror first is the first step to stopping such horror from existing again.


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