The Last King of Scotland

Like katrina12 said in her post,

“Alphabetical Africa” communicates the power of  those who represent or create representation for a people-group or a place.”

I was thinking about this part of the second chapter N in Alphabetical Africa (p 117)

“Every inch the diplomat, he addresses his end…He knows Africans are easily moved by an emotional appeal…French Consul, after all, is a master at conveying his distress by lifting an eyebrow…”

In The Last King of Scotland, the most striking thing in this movie for me was Amin’s power over people through his speech. It did not matter that what he was saying was not true or just.  The way he said it convinced the listeners to think as he would like them to. For example, in the press conference scene, I couldn’t help but smile as Amin spoke. The way he used language, linking Europe’s disdain for him to the apartheid, the way he inserted humour at the right points in his speech, almost made me believe that  what he was saying (that Uganda was in perfect order, that the people “were driving big cars and eating beef”)  was true, despite what I had been shown in the movie. I couldn’t help but draw a parallel between that paragraph and Idi Amin’s press conference. In the book, that scene is even more peculiar: the French consul is able to communicate the same message to the people despite the loss of a common language (and dictionary as the book puts it). Idi Amin successfully secures public opinion for himself (albeit for a short time) through his power to communicate his views to the relevant people. Amin is a “successful” dictator because he indeed dictates to people: what they should feel about his country in relation to others (in the press conference), the decisions they should make (in making Garrigan stay).

I find that communication and the power to communicate are very striking, because of the close link between communication and representation. The power to communicate effectively, and thus give a specific representation of oneself, ultimately gives one power, as Idi Amin proved (in the movie, and in real life).


Silence and Communication in Amistad

Amistad is a film in which the themes of communication, language, translation, and silence function at the forefront of understanding. This is first evident in Spielberg’s choice not to subtitle the first 15 minutes of the film.  The audience hears a foreign language, Mende, from Sierra Leone but can not understand it, thus establishing the void of communication that will continue throughout the film.  The barrier of communication continues into the trials, making the slaves difficult to defend unless they can find a way to communicate.  This comes in the obvious form of a translator.  In addition, translation is also present in more subtle ways in other aspects of the film such as its cinematic techniques.  Spielberg’s choice to translate meaning both in flashback and in storytelling allows the audience to know/understand more than the characters in the film.

The following shots depict defining moments of communication throughout the film:

38:31 - The useless translator

38:31 - The useless translator

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