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Mads Brügger on Radical Journalism and His Controversial IDFA Opener “The Ambassador”

Mads Brügger on Radical Journalism and His Controversial IDFA Opener "The Ambassador"

Opening the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam this evening, Mads Brügger’s “The Ambassador” is certain to be one of the most discussed documentaries at the festival, as well as scores of documentary festivals to come.  Brügger’s follow-up to his Sundance Film Festival award winning “The Red Chapel,” the film takes the director’s remarkably hands on approach to investigative journalism a controversial step further.

In “The Red Chapel,” Brügger headed to North Korea with two Danish-Korean comedians under the guise of a cultural exchange.

With “The Ambassador,” he makes his way solo to the Central African Republic, posing as a Liberian Consul by simply purchasing a diplomatic passport. Almost exclusively via hidden cameras, the audience watches as Brügger – with remarkable affect – dissappears into the character his new passport has brought forth: With a bizarre, almost Karl Lagerfeldian look, Brügger gives his diplomat the cover story of wanting to open a brand new match factory that will bring lots of jobs to the area. In addition to, of course, being in the midst of an investigation of blood diamonds.

It’s a risky setup, but Brügger pulls it off, allowing “The Ambassador” to become a unique entry into the sub-category of documentaries about African politics. How the many people and countries it exposes react as the film starts screening, however, remains to be seen.

The film is already courting controversy as a Dutch businessman depicted in the film (helping Brügger get his passport) has recently gone to the Dutch media and unsuccessfully asked to have the film removed from IDFA.

Brügger said he took on the project because he wanted something that would go “beyond role playing.”

“I wanted something that would be the next level,” he said. “I think it was in 2007 that I stumbled upon a link to a diplomatic passport brokerage on the internet. After some initial skepticism, I thought if this is really true – if you can actually buy a diplomatic title and become a real diplomat – that would be the ultimate starting point for a documentary about Africa.”

Brügger explained that this is because he sees diplomats as a sort of “super journalist.”

“They can talk to everybody and have access to everybody,” he said. “They have access to state secrets and circle of power. But they also enjoy a tremendous amount of prestige and protection because of their title.  For a long time I had been toying with the idea of making a documentary in Africa which would – in as many ways as possible – depart from the generic Africa documentary. So I thought this could be it, if I could manage it.”

Not formally trained as a filmmaker, Brügger considers “The Ambassador” just as much an example of his primary profession, journalism.

“Most of my life I have been working as a journalist,” he said. “Journalism is really the foundation of my work as a filmmaker… And I think of this film as journalism at it’s best. And also documentary making as it is meant to be. Shining light on areas that you can not easily gain access to and uncovering abuse of power in the higher echelons of society. That is what journalism is really about. In many places in the world journalists can no longer operate. Mexico, China, Russia… Many parts of Africa. Journalists are killed, harrassed, imprisoned… So if journalism is to reinvent itself, it’s necessary to think radically and alternatively.”

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Don Quichote reveals what is hidden in the f*ckumentary film The Ambassador

Don Quichote

The Ambassador is subversive and incendiary documentary film in which the maker Brugger unveils himself as an unscrupulous forger with the sole intention to purposely damage the interest of individuals and governments for his own glory to sell his product. The film is produced with public money from the Danish Filminstitute and financed/produced with a budget of €1 million by Lars Von Trier (Zentropa), a controversial film-director who admitted to journalists in Cannes in 2011 to being a Nazi, understanding Hitler. Organizers were not amused and declared him a persona no grata to the same festival. Under influence/inspiration of Von Trier’s ideology, Danish journalist Brugger purposefully took several steps beyond the rules, both written and unwritten. It is clearly a documentary film based on fascistic roots. Take a look at a photo in Politiken
and see how Brugger presents himself like a neo Nazi on horseback. That explains why he hates Africans and ridicules the TWA pygmy people. Brugger used hidden cameras and false pretences to record and film confidential meetings and telephone conversations without informing his victims or asking them permission or approval by means of adversarial response. Then he edited a documentary film with a specific “Tunnel Vision” to transform a fantasy-fetish into reality to proof his mistrust under the slogan “The end justifies the means!”.

Willem Tijssen

According to the International Federation of Journalist’s (IFJ) Declaration of Principles on the Conduct of Journalists, (i) the journalist shall at all times defend the principles of freedom in the honest collection and publication of news, and of the right of fair comment and criticism; (ii) the journalist shall report only in accordance with facts of which he/she knows the origin; (iii) the journalist shall not suppress essential information or falsify documents; (iv) journalist shall use only fair methods to obtain news, photographs and documents; (v) The journalist shall do the utmost to rectify any published information which is found to be harmfully inaccurate; (vi) The journalist shall observe professional secrecy regarding the source of information obtained in confidence; (vii) the journalist shall regard as grave professional offences the following: *malicious misrepresentation; *calumny, slander, libel, unfounded accusations;

Betsy A. McLane

Good journalism is not necessarily good documentary making

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