The Ambassador is a dizzying first-hand account of Brügger's journey into Africa and his meetings and dealings with government officials, political players, other "diplomats," and the owner of a diamond mine, with the end goal of turning the Danish filmmaker into a real diplomat and international diamond smuggler. Without any obvious protection, he sets up a diplomatic office inside the penthouse suite of a crumbling hotel, and starts doling out cash to the local authorities to help grease the wheels of his new career. It's a ridiculously ballsy move that gives the whole film a live-wire nervousness, especially when Brügger pushes his luck...which is always.
Brügger offers voice-over narration to describe the history of the Central African Republic and its political ties. "The C.A.R. offers itself as a Jurassic Park for people who long for the Africa of the 1970s," he deadpans. One of Brügger's interviews is with the head of state security for the Central African Republic, an overweight guy whose flop sweat is matched in pace by his ciagrette smoking. Armed soldiers line the streets, their allegiences unclear, especially in the context that anyone seems to be willing to bend the rules for what Brügger calls an "envelope of happiness." The head of state security flatly tells Brügger that it would probably be beneficial for the French, who believe themselves to be the owners of the CAR's unharvested diamonds, for everyone to kill each other.
As a director, Brügger paints an incredible picture of corruption, where unimaginably wealthy men fly in and out for their own gain, and governments try to backstab one another in order to lay a claim on the CAR, without contributing to the financial security of the area in any way. Part of Brügger's cover story is that he's going to build a match factory in the CAR, providing work for many of the people and saving them from having to import matches from France. He is open about the fact that he will have to disappoint them, but reminds the viewer that real people do the same thing on a regular basis. Meanwhile, the man who sold Brügger his passport becomes increasingly hard to reach, and there is building concern that someone will find out his fakery as Brügger makes his way up the chain of command with the local government.
Meanwhile, Brügger meets with Dalkia Gilbert, the owner of a diamond mine. "Being a diplomat at heart," he says, "I wanted to get my hands on as many diamonds as possible." Mr. Gilbert appears friendly and pleasant toward his new diplomat friend, then tries to trick Brügger into signing a contract that agrees that he'll pay "all of Mr. Gilbert's expenses forever." Their negotiation is a hilariously stacked deck, and although Mr. Gilbert regales Brügger with stories of diamonds worth 90 million, it might be smoke and mirrors. Is Brügger's local lawyer working for Gilbert? Is Brügger's assistant in on it too? When Brügger tells some of the people he meets with that he's about to make a deal with Mr. Gilbert, their nervous laughter does not inspire confidence.
Brügger's editing jumps back and forth on the timeline, revealing more and more of his meetings as the "story" progresses. It feels a little disingenuous -- re-assembling the timeline, mentally, is hard to do fluidly -- but he still captures so many jaw-dropping sights, so many incredible comments, so many darkly funny moments, that it's hard to argue with his style overall. Some viewers will feel that Brügger pulls his punches a little with the film's abrupt ending, but criticizing Brügger's bravado after the movie's first 93 minutes feels like it'd be missing the point.
The Video and Audio