Some viewed him as an instantly relatable man of the people. Others believe he is the truest embodiment of evil. A thoughtful portrait of a multi-faceted monster, Idi Amin: Famous for the Wrong Reasons peels back the layers of this controversial Ugandan leader with insights from those who knew him best.
When Amin seized power following a military coup in 1971, the people of Uganda were euphoric for the possibility of change. In the earliest days of his regime, his flamboyance and spontaneity were interpreted by many to represent a charming connection to the common man. He was often shown mixing and conversing with the people, and his lack of formal education made him appear more accessible and less elitist than most world leaders were presumed to be.
According to several insiders to the Amin regime who are interviewed in the film, those same qualities made him singularly unfit to serve as president. Little could he understand the delicacies and nuances of global politics, and these intellectual shortcomings inspired his most aggressive impulses. "The more he felt insecure, the more ruthless he became," one interview subject explains.
The remnants of that ruthlessness can still be felt nearly 40 years after his reign. We visit the torture chambers where members of his opposition were brutally slain. We hear stories of bodies being dumped into the Nile River by the truckload. We learn of Amin's belief in witchcraft, and his casual thirst for human blood. By the end of his eight-year rule, it is estimated that he took the lives of close to 300,000 citizens.
Others in the film - including Amin's own children - speak admirably of the leader's tenacity in the face of great struggle. We're told of his early rise through the ranks of the Colonial British Army, his nine-year stint as a light heavyweight boxing champion, and the voracious appetite for women that lead him to take five wives and father over 40 children. Acts that others view as barbaric, such as Amin's Asian population ban which effectively crippled the economy of Uganda at the time, is now viewed by some as an embracing of new African entrepreneurship.
Thoughtfully produced by CCTV Africa, Idi Amin: Famous for the Wrong Reasons reminds us that the most notorious figures in world history are often among the most complex.