Friday, April 27, 2007

amazin' man

So I finally saw The Last King of Scotland today. It is a work of fiction, framed as a memoir by a young Scottish doctor who becomes the personal physician of Idi Amin.

In some ways, the film is very reminiscent of Cry Freedom which focuses on another African leader (in this case, anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko who was played by Denzel Washington). So in both films the viewer gets a peek into the life of an important African figure. In both cases this figure is played by a high-caliber African-American actor (Forrest Whitaker actually won the Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Idi Amin). Also, in both cases, the story is told through the eyes of a peripherial white character. So in a fairly descriptive sense, one can say that neither film seems very Afrocentric. Less like Hamlet and more like Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead.

The Last King of Scotland also brought back memories of a novelty song I remember hearing on the radio many years ago called Amazin' Man which features Idi Amin as a calypso singer. I didn't think much (or know) about it back then, but Idi Amin is parodied by John Bird, a white English actor so there is something of a "minstrel" vibe to the performance. On the other hand, anyone with the deaths of 300,000 people on their hands is getting off lightly if all they faced was an insulting and insensitive parody.


DA said...

I wrote a bit about that after seeing the movie. I more used the movie itself as a jumping off point for how hollywood seems to take all historical events involving non-white players and tell them through a white character, generally played by a famous white actor

Forest Whittaker was great as aways in it, though.

Interestingly, I've talked to a couple Ugandans in the UK about Amin, and they were quite insistent that the cannibalism stories are all false propaganda.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Apparently the Amazin' Man link is broken but I think there are still a few other John Bird impersonations on YouTube: