Last night, we got ready for our Oscar party – just like home – except it’s a day late, being re-broadcast on the Dubai channel at 7pm our time (it wasn’t easy avoiding Internet, TV, and radio for the whole day), we’re all squeezed into a tiny yet comfy room in Addis watching on a TV which is probably smaller than my left toe, and stuffing ourselves with pasta and popcorn (don’t knock the combo til you try it…)

But despite our enthusiasm, I was actually kinda disappointed with the Oscar’s yesterday – forget about the lack of real exciting ‘glam’ this year – what were the designers smoking this year?? – I was more disappointed with the winner for Best Actor.  Like everyone else, I knew that it was common knowledge that Forest Whitaker was favoured to win thanks to Oprah’s endorsement – but I was hoping against it.  But not because he was a poor actor in the movie. I was actually avoiding watching the movie for similar reasons as SG (initials since I haven’t asked permission to use his name)-being similarly torn between feelings – disgust towards the crazy man that threw my family out of our country, to Thanks since that is the reason that my family ended up in Canada and with all the opportunity that that has afforded. SG was obviously able to articulate the conflicting emotions a bit better than I can…
At the end of the day, as a friend of mine pointed out, it isn’t likely that you will find a Jewish person who is thankful for Hitler and the holocoust due to which, Israel was formed.  So regardless that the movie was labeled ‘a must see’, I kept resisting. I don’t think I would ever go out of my way to see a movie about Idi Amin.  But last week, I found myself in the middle of Addis, compelled to watch while at a dinner party with a lack of alternative things to do. And my reaction – WOW. Yup, FW delivered an incredible performance – of the person he was protraying – although in my mind that isn’t the Amin I’ve ever pictured in my head.

But I was actually hoping against FW because of promotional clips I’ve seen on MM1 about the movie. So FW basically says to the effect ‘when I went to Uganda, I saw that they had these great legends about Amin, and when I was dressed as Amin, I was welcomed and the children were excited – I wanted to portray that’.  The actor who played the Scottish doctor went on to say to the effect – ‘ in the West we only know the negatives about Amin, here we get to show the good side of Amin’

What???  There’s a good side to Amin?? Was there a good side to Hitler too? and would a movie trying to protray such a side be welcomed or trumpeted??

After a recent trip to Uganda, I also found that a great many of the Ugandans view Amin positively.  But unlike these actors and the promotors of the movie, I found it discomforting and not something to be endeared by.  The vast majority of Ugandans are too young to remember Amin – and with the general lack of education there, they simply remember him as one of their presidents – one who tried to liberate Ugandans – they fail to know that in trying to ‘liberate’ them, he massacred them, tortured them, even ate them. 

Sure this is Africa, and like most African atrocities, the world doesn’t really care.  Unlike Milosivic, Pinnochet, or other savages, Amin was never tried for his crimes and was allowed to live out his years without being held accountable, in relative peace first in Libya (thank you Ghadafi) and then later in Saudi Arabia (gotta like that protectors of morality…).  Even Amin’s son is enjoying a Ben Mulroney-esque career in the radio industry in Kampala.  Can you imagine the world tolerating a decendent of Hitler to capitalize on his name??

Rather than ‘humanizing’ Amin, the makers and actors in The Last King of Scotland should have endeavoured to counter the incorrect images that Ugandans and much of the world has – that Amin was even more savage than we generally know. The media has jumped into the frenzy such as on CNN ‘FW is both charming and frightening’ – way to go! just what we need. to show that Idi is ‘charming’. Ask the educated Kenyans, Ethiopians and Tanzanians here who remember Amin – and they remember a different Amin – not quite as cuddly as the character played by FW. The original book that the movie was based on was not so much about Amin as it was about the doctor. But the movie producers exercised their artistic licence and made Amin the central role. They could have done so by ensuring the pure madness of the man was prevailent and not something simply came about in his later years. This movie almost made you feel sorry for ‘poor’ Amin – how about the hundreds of thousands of Africans (and I include the ‘Asians’ that lived there for generations in that label) that Amin murdered?? Do you ever feel sorry for them in this movie? By not not showing the true nature of Amin, and by stating offensive remarks as wanting to show the ‘good side of Amin’, in my view should have disqualified the nominations.  Just as a movie humanizing Hitler, Mussolini, or any of the other murderous dictators of recent times would not be tolerated, this one should not have been either.  Irrespective of how impressive the acting was.  

Uganda, like most of Africa, is not without its problems, and unless Amin’s psychosis is well known throughout the region instead of his alleged ‘good side’, we’re basically asking for the populations to fall for another crazy man’s ‘charm’….(anyone heard of Mugabe?)

If you want to see a ‘real’ depiction of Amin – take a look at this one
The Rise and Fall of Idi Amin – some say it is a more realistic view and some say it over dramatizes the violence – better that than over dramatising the ‘good’ in my opinion…

ok, maybe that wasn’t just 2 cents… 3 at the most… what’s your 2 cents?