General Idi Amin Dada (A Self Portrait) [Criterion Collection] [DVD] [1974]

Fascinating, surreal, funny, horrifying, and ultimately mind-boggling when one tries to figure out how director Barbet Schroeder and his crew managed to capture "self-styled" dictator General Idi Amin in all his infamous glory. From scenes of the notorious butcher playing an accordion for the amusement of the camera to his many onscreen anti-Semitic rants and conspiracy theories, Schroeder allows the affable and frequently boisterous Ugandan dictator to slit his own throat, so to speak -- at least as far as public relations go. The Criterion Collection's disc is superb and is a welcomed addition to their ever-growing catalog of excellent releases. The film is presented in its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and has been digitally remastered (supervised by the director himself) from the 16 mm Ektachrome original. This new transfer has given the film a brighter, more colorful enhancement. The film's soundtrack has likewise been given a much-needed restoration, erasing many of the audio noise that had marred it in the past. The disc also includes a great video interview with Schroeder. He talks at length about the multitude of problems he and the crew endured while making the film, some of the events that they were not allowed to film (like Amin's meeting with the Black September terrorists), and the general surrealism of hanging out with one of the more notorious and bizarre political figures to haunt the late 20th century. The director also talks about his desire to make a sequel, catching up with Amin at his present home in Saudi Arabia. The disc also includes liner notes, a timeline of Ugandan history, and a list of cuts that the dictator insisted be made to the film when he found out that people were laughing during screenings of the feature.
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Overview

Special Features

  • New digital transfer, supervised by director Barbet Schroeder
  • Exclusive new video interview with Barbet Schroeder
  • Timeline of Ugandan history
  • Documentation of Idi Amin's requested cuts to the film
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired

Synopsis

General Idi Amin Dada
Ugandan dictator Idi Amin Dada was but a distant irritation to everyone but his own countrymen and the British Empire until his perfidy became headline material in the early '70s. The first director to provide an in-depth study of this gregarious madman was director Barbet Schroeder, with his General Idi Amin Dada. In this documentary, Schroeder and his crew travel to Uganda to spend several days with the despot, one-on-one. The uncomfortable truths revealed in the film are all the most amazing when one realizes that Schroeder could not release his documentary without Amin's approval. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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