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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • English Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • 2001 video interview with Barbet Schroeder
  • Transcription of Idi Amin's requested cuts to the film

General Idi Amin Dada


Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Barbet Schroeder
1974 | 90 Minutes | Licensor: Le Figaro Mara Films TV Recontre

Release Information
DVD | MSRP: $29.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #153 | Out of print
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: May 14, 2002
Review Date: December 6, 2017

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SYNOPSIS

In 1971, the small African nation of Uganda was taken over by self-styled dictator General Idi Amin Dada, beginning an eight-year reign of terror that would result in the deaths of hundreds of thousands. In this chilling yet darkly comic documentary, director Barbet Schroeder turns his cameras on the infamous tyrant, revealing the dynamic, charming, and appallingly dangerous man whose fanatical neuroses held an entire nation in their grip. Made with the full support and participation of the infamous dictator, General Idi Amin Dada provides a candid and disturbing portrait of one of the 20th century's most notorious figures.

Forum members rate this film 7.6/10

 

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PICTURE

The Criterion Collectionís original DVD edition of Barbet Schroederís General Idi Amin Dada: A Self Portrait presents the film in the aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on a single-layer disc. This older standard digital transfer was taken from the original 16mm Ektachrome original print and since the film is in a standard aspect ratio the image has not been enhanced for widescreen televisions..

Despite its age the presentation still holds up reasonably well. Criterion had a tendency at one point to deliver a lot of their documentary releases in interlaced presentations but havenít gone that route here, giving us a progressive one. The image is surprisingly sharp and the detail levels are strong. Yes, long shots can look a little muddy but close-ups are impressive. Grain has been left in though the limitations of the format do limit how itís delivered making compression obvious and noisier when itís upscaled. Colour saturation isnít too bad, and black levels are pretty good, but I sometimes felt the image leaned a bit too much in a greenish territory.

But despite any of those problems there is a decent amount clarity here, a bit of a surprise coming back to it. Also surprising is how good the source materials look. There are a few marks left behind, along with stray hairs here and there as well, but the restoration work has been wonderfully thorough, especially surprising for the time, 15 years ago. The new Blu-ray betters it but this still holds up very well.

7/10

All DVD screen captures are presented in their original size from the source disc. Images have been compressed slightly to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The Dolby Digital 1.0 audio track can sound flat and can come off a bit distorted in places but itís still easy to hear what is spoken and the bits of music that show up do sound fine.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

A fairly basic edition overall but it does at least come with a lengthy interview with director Barbet Schroeder. For 25-minutes the director talks about his jumping between fiction films and documentaries (sometimes using the documentary as a way to research a fiction film he may be working on) and how he came to make this one in particular. He offered Amin the ability to basically call the shots on the film, making him the director of his own portrait, more or less, Schroeder saying he was especially overjoyed when he was able to get the dictator telling the cameraman what to film. He gives a very in-depth amount of detail about what it was like from day-to-day, trying to push Amin to do some of his usual duties so he could film them (like the council meeting), and then reflects on some instances he wasnít able to film but tells here. But he has some horrifying tales as well, particularly one involving Aminís reaction to how he was presented in a Ugandan news broadcast, and then there is of course how Amin threatened to kill French citizens in Uganda if Schroeder didnít cut out certain scenes from the film. Schroeder mentions how easy it was to forget what a monster Amin was given his almost child-like and jovial demeanor when one was in his presence, but there were constant reminders of the atrocities he was responsible for.

To add some context Criterion does also provide a timeline of Ugandan history, a navigable text based feature that provides a number of brief bullet points for important events in Uganda from the 1860s through 1996. The included insert features a short essay by David Ehrenstein as well as the notes that Schroeder provided to audiences noting the cuts he was forced to make to the film. Not a lot of material sadly but the material is at least good.

4/10

CLOSING

Criterionís new Blu-ray blows this edition away but this older DVD was pretty good for the time, even looking pretty decent now. It was a solid lower-tier release.


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