(aka "General Idi Amin Dada" or "General Amin" or "No One Can Run Faster Than a Rifle Bullet" or "O stratigos Amin Dada" )

 

directed by Barbet Schroeder
France/Switzerland 1974

 

 

If this mind-boggling documentary about one of the twentieth century’s most reviled dictators were fiction it would be acclaimed as a comic masterpiece… but it is all true. With an ambition the size of Napoleon, Idi Amin considered himself a major leader and revolutionary on the world stage. In reality, his regime was amateurish, disorganised, and his maniacal command both hilarious and bizarre.

Knowing that Amin put at least 300,000 people to death between 1971 and 1979 gives the film a uniquely chilling tone. Through his anti-Semitic rages, fetish for artillery and military power, and the aggression that drifts through almost every speech, Amin attempts to transform himself into a figure of heroic proportions. He awarded himself the title: “His Excellency President for Life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Dr. Idi Amin, VC, DSO, MC, King of Scotland, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea, and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular”.

The Masters of Cinema Series is proud to present Barbet Schroeder’s General Idi Amin Dada Autoportrait which, amazingly, was made with the full support and participation of Amin himself. Schroeder (Maitresse, Barfly, Single White Female) lets Amin do all the work, and instead of the carefully managed PR piece Amin clearly hoped for, we instead see a preening, vain, psychotic clown who aspires to be Africa’s Hitler.

Excerpt of review from Masters of Cinema located HERE

Theatrical Release: April 5th, 1975 (New York New Directors and New Films Festival)

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DVD Review: Masters of Cinema (Spine # 45) - Region 0 - NTSC

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Distribution

Masters of Cinema

Region 0 - NTSC

Runtime 1:30:30
Video

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.2 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate

Audio English (Dolby Digital 1.0)
Subtitles English, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Masters of Cinema

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• None

DVD Release Date: May 14th, 2007
Keep Case

Chapters 17

 

Comments

First things first. I own a copy of the Criterion release and will gladly do a comparison with it. Unfortunately, I do not have it with me at the moment, but I hope to get this done before the end of the year.

Film: As director Barbet Schroeder says in an interview reproduced with this release, he decided to give control of his film to Amin because, "I thought a self-portrait [would] be self-revealing". Yet, Schroeder could have no idea how self-revealing this film would be. In it Amin does his best to make himself out to be at the vanguard of world leadership; someone who commands the attention of presidents and queens but also possesses both the military and athletic prowess that other world leaders lack. Instead, all that we see is a thuggish buffoon, someone too stupid to realize that the rest of the world is unimpressed with his antics. In this, Schroeder's film can be considered a success, and a fascinating one at that.

 


Visuals: This looks quite strong considering it is from a 16mm source. The box states that this print has been recently restored, and colors are bright and grain is visible. I can't see it looking much better from the elements used. When we get the Criterion to compare I imagine it will further support this Masters of Cinema release as a very strong SD-DVD representation of the film.

Audio: The Dolby Digital 2.1 soundtrack provides us with a competent rendition of the soundtrack, but as it's mono, don't expect too much out of it.

Extras: Unfortunately there are not any extras with this release, short of one of their renowned booklets. Here we get no original essays, but instead a couple of reproduced pieces and a note on footage exorcised under threat from Amin.

Final Thoughts:  If you're interested in the film, then you won't go wrong in picking this one up, but the original 16mm source doesn't produce the usual visual output you may be used to from MoC. Still, a fascinating viewing experience - one we recommend!

 - Brian Montgomery

 



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Region 0 - NTSC

 





 

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