Monday, August 6, 2012

The Last King of Scotland

One would find themselves greatly misinformed if they relied upon the distorted lens of cinema in place of diligent historical research. The Last King of Scotland is based upon a concoction of truth and imagination, directly from the pages of English Journalist Giles Foden's 1998 novel of the same name.  The film adaptation places a fictional, young bourgeoning, Scottish doctor in the rural middle of Uganda under the auspice of a
humanitarian effort to provide locals with much needed medical care. Dr. Garigan (James McCovy) completely ignorant of Uganda's history, culture, language and political instability learns from another doctor's wife that Idi Amin (Forest Whitaker), who has just usurped the presidency will be speaking at a rally nearby. 

Garigan attends the rally in naivety and shortly after becomes quickly acquainted with President Amin as a result of an accident in which he was beaconed to the scene. It is also shortly after that I realize that this film is not at all about Idi Amin Dada Oumee, or the British machine that built the monstrosity and unleashed him upon Uganda. It would solely perpetuate the idea that tribal genocide is inherent to Africa and occurs only because a control freak becomes a dictorial president.  I feel it is important to note a couple of significant facts in order to understand the intensity of the political landscape of the late 70's in Uganda and Amin's rise to power. 

Amin nearly 20 years old joined the King's African Rifles, which was an extension of the imperialist British army. Within the KAR he was quickly promoted to corporal because of his eagerness. He had accomplished skipping four ranks to sergeant-major. Through out his military career he had served as a weapon conduit for Israeli forces involved in oppressing the Sudanese, and he played an intricate role in British attacks against the Kikuyu uprising that was a result of British imposition and economic depravation. Amin is able to evade being brought to the British court for his barbaric brutality in the Turkana Massacre with the help of his comrade and superior Prime Minister Milton Obote. Along the way he found time to grasp the heavyweight boxing championship and keep it for nearly a decade. Once Uganda achieves independence from Britain in 1962 and former President Sir Edward Mutesa is exiled, Amin and Obote become arch rivals.

The film picks up where Amin is at the height of his vainglorious climb to corruption and absolute power.
Unfortunately we are privy to the personal experience of a naive Scotsman who became a victim to Amin's paranoia. Many scenes relish in Amin's affinity for Scottish culture. Meanwhile this undermines the vast loss and devastation that Uganda suffered. Still today one can only imagine the impact that 300,000 people
killed can have upon the spirit of Uganda. So, if you are looking for entertainment, this is the movie for you. If you are hoping to understand Amin's tyrannical relationship to Uganda, I suggest you hit the books.

Directed by: Kevin McDonald 2006

Starring: Forest Whitaker, James McAvoy, Kerry Washington & David Oyelowo
Length: 123 minutes 
Origin: North America

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