Echoes from a Somber Empire
Filmfest 2007

ECHOES FROM A SOMBER EMPIRE offers a nightmarish documentary portrait of madness and tyranny, focusing on one of the most notorious despots of recent years: Jean Bedel Bokassa of the Central African Republic, who seized power with French help in 1966, declared himself President for Life six years later -- and then, in 1977, ostentatiously renamed his desperately poor country the Central African Empire, and had himself crowned Emperor in an obscenely extravagant ceremony. Bokassa's reign was a horrorfest of Kurtzian proportions: massacred school children; allegations of imperial cannibalism; opponents fed to crocodiles and lions. His sexual appetite, it transpires, was as gargantuan and unrestrained as his bloodlust. Herzog's guide on this holiday in hell is Michael Goldsmith, a South African journalist who was once imprisoned and tortured by Bokassa. The film includes hallucinatory footage of Bokassa's bizarre coronation; scenes from his eventual trial; interview with Bokassa's wives, children, and victims; and encounters with surreal artifacts from his bad-dream rule. Pacific Cinemateque

With: Michael Goldsmith, Werner Herzog, François Gibault, Augustine Assemat, Francis Szpiner, David Dacko, Marie-Reine Hassen

tags: Documentary


Director: Werner Herzog