Staff Reviews

Appendix of Darkness

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In The Red Chapel (2009), undercover Danish documentarian Mads Brugger visited North Korea as a member of a fake theater company. In The Ambassador (2011), now out on DVD, he ventures into the Central African Republic (CAR) as an emissary of Liberia for a similarly sardonic look at an appalling political situation.

"Some call it a failed state," Brugger says, "but this could only be true if at some point there had been a functioning state structure." The CAR's kleptocracy clearly fails at providing security, but in other respects the country's problem is too much rather than too little government.

Brugger's odyssey, which includes buying Liberian diplomatic credentials, meeting with various government officials, planning a never-to-be-built match factory, striking a shady deal with a diamond mine owner, and many, many bribes, illustrates what happens when the state has a hand in everything. "If you can mix business and politics," Brugger's corrupt alter ego observes, "wonderful things can happen."

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