You can always count on Danish journalist-filmmaker Mads Brügger to stir the pot. In the award-winning documentary that put him on the map, “The Red Chapel,” Brügger headed to North Korea with two Danish-Korean comedians under the guise of a cultural exchange to show what life is really like for the country’s citizens. With his follow-up “The Ambassador,” which played at Sundance in January, he makes his way to the Central African Republic (CAR) posing as a Liberian consul to show what happens when a very white European man buys his way into being a diplomat in one of Central Africa’s most failed nations. The film is currently playing in select theaters and is available on VOD.
Below, Brügger shares one of his favorite scenes from the documentary, in which he meets with a member of parliament related to the president of the CAR.
Behind the Scene:
While in Bangui, the capital of the CAR, the small border town of Birao was attacked and conquered by one of the rebel groups operating in the country. Several diplomats I spoke with in Bangui had foreseen this would happen, because some weeks before UN forces protecting this sensitive area suddenly – and without any real explanation – pulled out of the area, leaving it completely open and exposed to the rebels. An army intelligence officer told me it was like placing a sports car with the keys in it in a crime-infested neighborhood.
Several soldiers were killed during the attack, and it spilled in to all the anxieties about the rebels maybe being on an offensive, moving towards the capital. Sentiments were running high amongst diplomats in Bangui because the presidential election was approaching, and several people I spoke with asked the obvious question: Which country would have the power to make the UN pull out of Birao at this politically sensitive time in the CAR? The equally obvious answer was of course France – if you buy in to the conspiracy theory that holds that France wants to keep the place as dysfunctional and unstable as possible, thereby preventing other countries from exploiting the vast resources of the CAR.
Around this time, one night I came back to the hotel where I had my consulate, and in the lobby there was a uniformed officer from the Centralafrican Armed Forces waiting. He asked if I was the consul of Liberia, which I acknowledged, and then he gave me an envelope with my name written on it. Inside the envelope was a note with two names and two phone numbers written. It was a note from the head of state security of the CAR, a former French foreign legion soldier, whom I had befriended. One of the names was that of Willibona Cocksis, a member of parliament who is related to the president of the CAR. The head of state security had told me beforehand that Cocksis was in the know about the situation in Bangui, so I had a meeting set up with him in my consulate.
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