The Yellow Laugh

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In 1974, Barbet Schroeder went to Uganda to make a documentary about the charismatic, sociopathic, ruthless, ego-maniacal dictator Idi Amin, who delighted in the cameras. The result, “General Idi Amin Dada: A Self Portrait” was a hit with international audiences, but not in the way Amin had expected. He demanded a recut – or else.

More info:

  • Travel back to 1974 with this New York Times story about Idi Amin’s inventive efforts to get the film re-cut. 
  • General Idi Amin Dada: A Self Portrait” was the first of three documentaries about terrible people - what Barbet Schroeder calls his “Trilogy of Evil.” The second and third installments are “Terror’s Advocate” (2007), about controversial French lawyer Jacques Vergès and “The Venerable W.” (2017), about the Buddhist monk at the head of the anti-Muslim movement in Myanmar.

Documentary clips in today’s intro:

  • Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010): An eccentric French shopkeeper and amateur filmmaker tries to find and befriend the elusive street artist Banksy, only to have the artist turn the camera back on its owner. (Amazon, iTunes, YouTube)
  • Tabloid (2010): Was it a love story, a kidnapping, or somewhere in between? Errol Morris’ “anti-documentary” about the bizarre 1970s “Manacled Mormon” tabloid story is a wild ride with a sensational narrator. (Google Play, Hulu, iTunes)
  • 4 Little Girls (1997): Spike Lee chronicles the lives and tragic deaths of the four young black girls who were killed in the white-supremacist bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, in the midst of the civil rights movement. (Amazon, HBO Now, iTunes, Vudu)




Matt Holzman