Cécile Bishop – The Truth about Amin: History and Fiction in Filmic Portrayals of Idi Amin


Event Date: 26 November 2013
International Building
Royal Holloway University of London
Egham, Surrey

seminar series

School of Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures presents:

Dr Cécile Bishop – “The Truth about Amin”: History and Fiction in Filmic Portrayals of Idi Amin

In an interview about his 2009 book on post-Amin Uganda, The Teeth May Smile but the Heart Does Not Forget, Andrew Rice declared to the New York Times: ‘If one historical figure could be said to embody the continent as it is stereotypically imagined — dark, dangerous, atavistic and charged with sexual magnetism — it would be Idi Amin Dada’. This remark encapsulates one of the key challenges raised by the representation of postcolonial dictatorships in Africa: the difficulty of offering a description of these regimes that would avoid reproducing colonial stereotypes about the continent.

This paper examines three films about Uganda dictator Idi Amin:  Général Idi Amin Dada: Autoportrait (1974), by Franco-Swiss documentarist Barbet Schroeder, the British drama The Last King of Scotland (2006) by Kevin MacDonald, and the ‘exploitation’ film The Rise and Fall of Idi Amin by Kenyan director Sharad Patel (1981). Focusing on the articulation of fiction and history in these works, the discussion will explore the political and ethical issues raised by the potential recuperation of postcolonial African realities as sensational topics for filmmakers. However, it will show that any such discussion needs to address the following paradox: although ethical/political responsibilities are often set in opposition to notions such as ‘aestheticization’ in representations of violent or traumatic political realities, those are in fact deeply entangled in contingent aesthetic and generic conventions.

Introduction by Professor Colin Davis (RHUL):






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