THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND
Although I have the greatest respect for the talents of Forrest Whitaker, it is only now that I have made an effort to watch his Oscar-winning performance as Ugandan President Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland. This is, of course, my year for James McAvoy, and I’m thankful that he finally led me to Last King, for it is truly a phenomenal story. And Whitaker’s performance is as riveting as I had heard. But it is not the performances that I bring away with me, not even McAvoy’s bold and equally substantial performance as the fictional doctor to the president. Rather, I take away a disturbing sense that I should have been aware of such a historical figure as Amin but have never in my lifetime heard his name.
It wouldn’t normally be unusual for someone to be oblivious to a person whose acclaim reached its peak in her childhood, especially when that person lived on the other side of the world. But in the case of a truly horrific dictator, it would seem that history of this sort should be taught. Is it not important that we know all the ways power can corrupt? Should we not use people like President Amin as example for future generations that a person can be so very charming, so very loved by a nation, and still become a brutal dictator whose power brings devastation to his country? Should this not be a lesson spread across the globe, even to Western minds who think such a thing could never happen to them? America never thought terrorism would reach its own shores, either, and yet it did, and seven years later we still have not recovered. It continually disturbs me that my formal education was so limited and so Western. I appreciate that there are artists in this world who aim to fill those gaps. The Last King of Scotland has now filled one more.
I will always view this film as a warning. People can be placed into powerful positions and become completely different from what we first believe them to be. It doesn’t happen only in Africa. Or Iraq. It can just as easily happen in America. This film reminds me to very careful with my own voting privilege, and to be wary of the great charisma that powerful people can wield. The Last King of Scotland is an important film for its historical context, as well as its lesson to never forget the past. It is a lesson I’ll not soon forget.
image from Internet Movie Database