The Last King of Scotland
starring Forest Whitaker, James McAvoy, Kerry Washington, Simon McBurney, David Oyelowo, Stephen Rwangyezi, Abby Mukiibi, Adam Kotz and Gillian Anderson
screenplay by Peter Morgan and Jeremy Brock
directed by Kevin Macdonald
Based on the book by Giles Foden, this is an insider’s account of the regime of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin Dada from the eyes of his Scottish personal physician, Dr. Nicholas Garrigan. This performance won Forest Whitaker the Academy Award for Best Actor, and although I usually hate Forest Whitaker and felt badly that Peter O’Toole did not win the Best Actor Oscar (he has never won an Oscar, believe it or not), I agree that he deserved the award for this film. It’s powerful. It’s dramatic. Whitaker beautifully captures the charisma, paranoia and affability of Amin. I don’t know if the character of Dr. Nicholas Garrigan is/was a real man or not. I Googled his name but got only more references to the movie and James McAvoy’s character. In the movie McAvoy’s presentation of him makes him easily despicable. A more naïve, fool of a doctor it is hard to imagine. You could re-titled the movie “Stupid, Naïve White Man in Africa!!”
I was in junior high school when Idi Amin was in power. His atrocities were an open secret, as many thousands of Ugandans were “disappearing,” just as they did in other right-wing dictatorships in places like Chile, Argentina and Paraguay. I remember when the Entebbe Airport hostage taking by Palestinians happened and was in the news. It seems like yesterday, and I must be getting old. Amin was allowed to stay in office for nine years because he was one of those anti-communist, far-right dictators that are so popular with Western governments as proxies to do their dirty work in various out-of-the-way places around the world. Their threshold of intolerable conduct is always quite high.
The way the Western media and politicians like to do, Amin was described at the time as another Hitler. I hate it how every new bad guy is the “new”Hitler. Idi Amin was Hitler. Saddam Hussein was Hitler. Mohamar Gaddafi has been described as Hitler. So was Augusto Pinochet, and Radovan Milosevic. Interestingly, in Asia Hitler is not the model of the Evil Guy. In Asia Hitler is seen, even admired more as a powerful leader whose Vermarcht had really cool uniforms. Here Chairman Mao is the model of evil. (On October 9th there was a story from Seoul, Koreaon page 4 of the English-language Japan Times newspaper, “Nazi theme bar disgusts Israeli ambassador.” A bar owner is Seoul just wanted “to be different,” and got the idea of using Nazi fashions and insignia from watching WW II movies. Korea suffered under Imperial Japan, the Nazis’ allies, but this Korean - and many other Asians as well - see Nazi paraphernalia just as a fashion. It would be a completely different situation if he tried to decorate his bar with Imperial Japanese military décor. That would cause riots in Seoul.)
I was in senior high school in 1979 when Amin’s government was toppled thanks to an invasion by Tanzaniato the south, not thanks to any popular uprising at home. The explanation behind Amin’s terror is typical of African dictators, or dictators in any tribal country. He carried his tribal vendettas to a country-wide level prosecuted by a large, professional army. It is precisely the same thing that occurred in Rwanda in 1994 and is going on in the Sudan, the Congoand Nigeriatoday. To a lesser extent it is going on in Afghanistan, Pakistanand Iraq, too. Partly tribal, partly clan competition and vendetta. African’s are their own worst enemies. They long ago lost any credibility continuing to blame white European (British) colonialism for their woes.
I liked seeing Gillian Anderson (FBI Special Agent Dana Scully from The X-Files). I don’t get to see her in a lot of movies. I think she’s hot.