Black Looks - Including an African LGBTIQ+ Archive

Feminism, Film

The other woman

This is me 15 minutes after watching The Last King of Scotland. The promotional blurb is annoying. It claims to recreate Uganda under Amin’s regime. This movie doesn’t recreate anything, least of Uganda under Amin. That said, however, it was good…for a Hollywood movie. You don’t have to look closely to realize that you have seen this movie before, or maybe you saw it in real life, you can’t really be sure. But basically, all the elements are there, a white man’s random foray into Africa, said white man becomes center of Africa’s universe, white man interacts with despotic, insane African leader etc etc. The only good thing I can say is that we are given fleeting moments where the traditional roles of black villian, white hero are blurred. And we see that both men are holding the shitty end of the stick because both parties have crapped up sufficiently on their respective ends. Do pardon the imagery. The suffering and terror of the Amin regime is almost the background tale, the spotlight is on the Scottish doctor. But hey, directors make their choices, and I can see how this choice can be justified.

But I think my main concern is with the presentation of women. Much like Casino Royale, I found this movie a tad misogynistic. The Scottish doctor lands in Uganda for his great African adventure, and even before he can put his bags down, he is in bed with some random Ugandan woman who is never given a name, a personality, she is just a pair of spread open legs. Later, we see the sexual tension between the noble doctor and his British co-worker. But she is married, she makes the right decision, she walks away. Triumph for her eh! Next on the list of women is the president’s wife. She is the beautiful, “African” woman without whom a white man’s foray into the dark continent would not be complete. Her role in the movie is to spread her legs for him. But like all women, especially all exotic, “other” women, her body betrays her. She gets pregnant (birth control anyone?) and her vengeful husband makes an example of her by severely mutilating her body. Her limbs are chopped off. So not only did she never have agency, but now no mobility, in fact no life, because she is murdered. And so once again the “other” woman is exotified, her body is used and then she must be discarded, for what other use can she have?

The Last King of Scotland is a strange movie. I think I have a love/hate relationship with it for now. It doesn’t feed us with fanciful images of some of the more outlandish horrors that have been attributed to Idi Amin. It does, however show how a mind can be a mess, and how well this can be hidden, and how frightening when it is revealed.

5 Comments

  1. Sokari

    I had the opportunity to see this film on the plane coming over to SA but I just couldnt bring myself to watch it – so chose some other mindless drama that I cannot even remember the name – Thanks for the review though but I think I’ll skip this one altogether.

  2. Is it a liberal adaptation of some historical account, or a strict adaptation of said account? I got interested in Ugandan politics when I lived in Kenya, and wouldn’t mind seeing the film. Will I regret doing so? Thanks for the review.

  3. Ms K

    You have expressed exactly how I felt after I watched the movie. My colleague makes a mention of the fact that there were only two doctors at the Mulago hospital. Ha.

    For me, it is a case, as you say, of watching this movie too many times. Same ol’. Too familiar.

    But Kerry Washington was gorgeous!!!

  4. Rethabile, I would say a “fanciful” adaptation. Let’s put it this way, it’s not a movie I would buy, but one I didn’t mind spending $2 going to see…which is why I went yesterday, on cheapskate Tuesday. I love my local cinema 🙂

  5. Sokari

    Annie@ thats ok – $2 and one can just about see any movie:) I have a very close Ugandan friend who also said she couldnt face seeing it – I mean you pretty much know before hand what these movies are going to be like – as you say its all been done before.