With each step forward he takes two steps back as conflicts arise in direct correlation to the risks he takes that makes diplomatic immunity a life or death affair.
Before Sacha Baron Cohen got into character for his recent comedy, The Dictator, comes an investigative journalism documentary about a man who becomes an ambassador to uncover the blood diamond trade in Africa. Nominated for Grand Jury Prize at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, The Ambassador forgoes the typical fly on the wall approach and instead interactions directly as an affluent diplomat.
The Ambassador starts off with a man who clearly does not want anyone to find out about the conversation that he is about to have. First he makes sure that all phones are off and then says that what he is about to say “was never said”. But little does he know that there is a hidden camera recording him the whole time. The man turns out to be Colin Evans, a former Royal Marine who is now in charge of an online brokerage for diplomatic passports.
The hidden camera rolls as Evans explains that he recognizes that the goal is to have uncluttered access with diplomatic credentials in and out of a diamond-producing zone. He explains that this is a highly sought after position to be in and the consequences of getting caught could mean ending up dead in a ditch in Africa. But taking such big risks means receiving big rewards.
The man behind the camera is a Danish journalist/filmmaker named Mads Brügger who likes to be referred to as Mads or his alias Mr. Cortzen. Mads relies on hidden cameras to capture many controversial conversations that will risks the lives of everyone involved, including himself. And that is only the start of the downward spiral of risks he is about to embark on.
His passport states that he is a Liberian consul and ambassador at large to the Central African Republic. But how does a self-admitting unskillful diplomat achieve the highest ranking status of ambassador? Mads tell us it all begins with that conversation he had with Evans earlier. Although, it is a little confusing because he later discloses that the deal with Evans helping him get his diplomatic credentials never happened. Perhaps it was a step in the right direction of diplomatic brokerages because he was able to find another person willing to help.
Mads’ goal is to use his diplomat status to get his hands on as many diamonds as possible but he must do so without making that so apparent as the blood diamond industry is heavily monitored. So he comes up with a plan to open up a factory that produces matches as a front for the diamonds. Mads, who is rarely seen without a cigarette or a drink in hand, makes good connections with a diamond mine owner name Mr. Gillbert. But with each step forward he takes two steps back as conflicts arise in direct correlation to the risks he takes that makes diplomatic immunity a life or death affair.
Being that blood diamonds are the large centerpiece of the documentary I was confused as to why it failed to educate viewers on what they were until the last five minutes. It is then that it informs viewers that diamonds from an area of conflict without the right papers are blood diamonds. It is not quite what I would consider common knowledge and if it is then why mention it in the documentary at all?
The editing seemed very choppy, perhaps to purposely cover up or leave out some details. Some of that was probably due to the fact The Ambassador was mostly shot from hidden cameras, an impressive feat in itself. I also found the narration to be choppy. This results in a slightly confusing documentary which leaves a lot to be answered. Such as did his secretary Maria know what Mads actual goals were from the start? Some of the paperwork exchange was not fully explained.
The Ambassador is perhaps too in depth to hold the casual viewers interest. Nearly two-thirds of the film is spend explaining all the road blocks it takes to set up a business front for diamonds before we are even shown the diamond mines at all. Maybe that is because Mads was not able to get all the footage that he set out to get in relation to the actual diamond part. There is no doubt that what he was able to uncover about the whole diplomatic process anything less than shocking.