Face to face with power

Général Idi Amin Dada-Autoportrait

Barbet Schroeder

1974FranceSwitzerland92 minColour


Approaching Idi Amin Dada at the height of his glory, Barbet Schroeder offers to be his assistant to make a self-portrait. As a result, he is able to reveal the behind-the-scenes life of the Ugandan dictator. 

PRINT SOURCE: Les Films du Losange, production@filmsdulosange.fr

Commander-in-chief of the Ugandan army from 1964, General Idi Amin Dada seized power from President Obote in 1971 in a military coup. He saw himself as the world’s greatest head of State and proved it by having himself appointed president for life in 1976. Full of political maxims as profound as “no one can run faster than a rifle bullet”, he rapidly rises to fame for his cruelty... When Barbet Schroeder’s documentary was released, Idi Amin Dada had been ruling Uganda with an iron fist for three years. How can you film a dictator without surrendering to his propaganda? How can you get him to lower his guard so as to convey the truest possible portrait? In an interview, the filmmaker commented that he had been inspired by the method of Jean Rouch, who in the land-mark documentary “I, a Negro” (1958), had left part of the camerawork and voice-over narration to the young Nigerian whose portrait he was filming. Except that with a powerful man, the handover of the filming had to be done under the trappings of the filmmaker’s docility. As he explains in a DVD bonus interview: “I told him: ‘I’m here to serve you’, “ ‘You have to tell me what to show. We are going to do this together.’ Just one rule: “Never have dinner with him and don’t accept the [prostitutes] that he wanted to send me.”
–Charlotte Garson (Petite traversée du portrait documentaire français, Ciclic, 2019)

  • PRODUCTION : Jean-Pierre Rassam, Jean-François Chauvel
Press Kit