...engaging and discerning culture, as a way of life...

January 22, 2007

The Last King of Scotland - 6

The Last King of Scotland is the name Ugandan President Idi Amin gave himself because of his fascination with Scotland and his rebellion against England as a colonizers (he is played by Forest Whitaker, who won the Golden Globe for his performance in this film, he is also good in Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai). He presided over Uganda from 1971-1979. It is undisputed that Amin was brutal, but estimates of the death toll range from 80,000 to 500,000 (The movie goes with 300,000).
The story of the film follows Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy), as he becomes Amin's personal doctor, trying to do good, only to become a personal confidant that is soon participating in Amin's paranoia and need for control. Amin is a complex character in this film, being funny, human, and ultimately, disturbing. The story is about the struggle Garrigan goes through in order to try not to lose his humanity. He soon find himself engulfed in a world where he no longer belongs, and he must make the choice to remain committed to the good, or ensnared by the selfishness of evil.
There are real events that this film chronicles, but it is important to remember that the main character, Nicholas Garrigan is a creation of the journalist Giles Foden, in order to tell this story. I think it is important to know this, if not before you see the film, at the very least after you have seen it. It will save you from saying something embarrassing (or at the very least something false) like a number of my fellow moviegoers.
I think it is vital for the audience to remember that this film adds to the complexity of popular knowledge about Africa, the solution to the crisis cannot be as simple as getting rid of corruption or handing out food and money to nations, the solution will have to take into account the complexity of the problem. The possibility of failure is always there, but so is the creativity of the human imagination for positive change.

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