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Marina Antunes [Film Festival 10.01.12] Denmark comedy documentary

With enough money and in some cases a necessary lack of morals, anything can be bought. It's a fact and one that doesn't come as much of a surprise but it's one thing to hear people say "everything can be bought" and to actually see it in action.

Mads Brugger, the director behind 2009's The Red Chapel, returns to the world of the bizarre except this time, rather than trying to enter North Korea, he's set his eyes on Africa and most notably the Central African Republic. The plan behind The Ambassador is easy: buy an Ambassadorship (he works with not one but two different companies whose business is selling titles) in Lebanon and head to CAR where, under the banner of a diplomat, he would set up a match making factory as a cover for his real intentions: to buy and move blood diamonds out of the country.

It's tricky business and requires a lot of "happy" envelopes full of cash for bribing politicians. Everyone wants and takes the money but no one wants to be seen taking it directly. With the help of a local aide (it comes with the documentation he's bought), Brugger meets other ambassadors, gets the inside scoop on who is doing what and who he can and can't trust (he quickly learns that in a country where everything is for sale for the right price, you can't trust anyone).

From the beginning Brugger's adventure is problematic. He doesn't receive all of his documentation up front, the mine owner he's working with is shady, Brugger is drawing up contracts he later finds out are highly illegal and could get him killed. Constant calls to his ambassadorship broker don't go as planned and soon Brugger has diamonds but is missing the right paperwork to easily smuggle them out of the country, a risky business with paperwork never mind without it.

One of The Ambassador's best achievements is the way in which it builds tension. Some of it is natural. There is so much corruption, guns and illegality running rampant throughout the country that even before he arrives, it's clear that one wrong move could mean a dead filmmaker but Brugger navigates some touch situations amazingly well, talking his way in and out of tough situations. Along the way he shares some interesting facts and ideas about Africa and its place in the world. It's a fertile, largely unexploited market which is quickly turning into the front lines of a quietly waging battle for resources, one that will, if left unchecked, turn bloodier than it already is.

We never find out what happens to the diamonds Brugger acquires from his mine-owning friend. The documentary ends abruptly and we're left to assume that Brugger either "lost" the diamonds or snuck them out without his paperwork. He does make a point to let us know that his papers do eventually come through and he becomes a legitimately appointment Lebanese ambassador to CAR. What he will do with that title we'll never know but the process of acquiring it sheds a troubling light on the current situation in Africa in a hugely entertaining and uncomfortably funny manner.

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