‘Scotland’ in Uganda
If you don’t care about stuff that happens halfway around the world, once you witness ‘The Last King of Scotland,’ you will care.
Based on the novel by journalist Giles Foden, ‘The Last King of Scotland’ takes place in Uganda during Idi Amin’s tyrannical reign, during which an estimated 500,000 people were slaughtered. Myths about Amin are slowly unraveled throughout the film. ‘King’ is actually shown from the perspective of Amin’s personal physician, Nicholas Garrigan, portrayed by James McAvoy (‘Wimbledon,’ ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’).
The film begins lightheartedly with Garrigan, a young and frustrated Scottish doctor longing to avoid following the footsteps of his father, a family doctor. Shortly after spinning a globe and pointing a finger on the first country that he lands on, he arrives in Uganda as a mission doctor.
Ignorant of current events in Uganda, Garrigan manages to fall into the favor of the newly installed dictator, Amin, and enjoys a lavish lifestyle with his new friend. Apart from the followers of the previous dictator, no one in Uganda openly opposes or questions Amin.
Garrigan eventually realizes the extent of the havoc that Amin is wreaking on the people. With the world unaware of the brutality, fellow physician Djonjo, played by David Oyelowo (‘Derailed,’ ‘As You Like It’), urges Garrigan, ‘You must tell the world of Amin. They will believe you because you are a white man.’
On Aug. 4, 1972 Amin gave the Asians, mainly those of Indian ethnicity, in Uganda 90 days to leave the country, saying that God had given him a vision.
Survivor Jayshree Patel, mother of fourth-year criminology, law and society major Rikin Patel, was 15 years old when she and her family were expelled.
Patel was lucky enough to move to London but was in constant fear for her father, who remained in Uganda.
‘My dad worked for the government for many years and even though he wasn’t a Ugandan citizen, the government held him back for a couple of years,’ Patel said. ‘During that time we didn’t know how my dad was treated back in Uganda or if he was alive or dead. He finally came to London in 1974 and told us horror stories. Some of them were really cruel … how [Amin’s regime] used to kill them … all sorts of different torture methods.’
Even though this film has some graphic and gruesome scenes, director Kevin MacDonald’s way of capturing not just the moral tale of the Scottish physician but also the beauty of Uganda makes this film truly magnetic. The landscapes and scenes of the Ugandan people playing, working and leading their daily lives make it easy to see how the character of Nicholas Garrigan could be so fond of this nation.
The acting in ‘The Last King’ is amazing. If you’ve been wondering whether Gillian Anderson is still alive after ‘The X-Files’ concluded, she makes an appearance in this film as the wife of a fellow mission doctor with whom Garrigan works.
Forest Whitaker is frighteningly powerful as dictator Amin. McAvoy’s portrayal of Garrigan adds a youthful charm to ‘The Last King,’ making the film bearable during the heart-wrenching scenes.
‘The Last King’ is a cinematic piece that is a must-see of 2006.