Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Give the Oscar to Joseph Olita

Credit should be given where it is due – Forest Whitaker largely deserved to win the Oscar last night. Justice should be served where it is wanting – Joseph Olita deserved to win the Oscar 16 years ago for his portrayal of former Ugandan despot Idi Amin Dada in the classic epic The Rise and Fall of Idi Amin. To date, the movie remains the most watched movie in Kenyan history, surpassing even The Passion of the Christ.
A huge majority of subscribers to this blog will most probably not have watched the 16 year-old epic, since they must have been like 2 or 3 years old when the classic was released, but this does not mean they should hear about it. Produced by the late Sharad Patel (who was also a Kenyan citizen), The Rise and Fall of Idi Amin was a movie about the true story of the Ugandan military dictator. Legend has it that Joseph Olita played Idi Amin so well that Idi Amin himself swore (he had then been disposed and was in exile in Saudi Arabia) that if they ever crossed paths, he would kill him with his bare hands. Of course Idi Amin is long since dead and Joseph Olita’s international acting career failed to take him to Hollywood.
So good was Olita at playing Amin that in preparation for his great performance, Whitaker surely must have benefited from a study of The Rise and Fall of Idi Amin. In fact, we in Africa aren’t really surprised that the professional critics have not noted, reminded, or even compared Olita's previous very stunning portrayal of Amin. Most objective critics would admit that if you compared Olita’s and Whitaker’s portrayal of Amin, the former stands heads and shoulders above.
But such is the tragic case of Africa; ignored by the west and the world in general, despite its great contribution to the world of entertainment. And when the world and Hollywood finally directs some attention towards this glorious continent, the characters playing leading roles in stories about the continent, are not African!

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

man wacha kuongea matope. I have watched both Olita's and Whittaker's performances and their is a remarkable difference. Having actually lived in Uganda and known about Idi Amin better, and having watched documentaries made about him, Forest Whittaker was a much more realistic depiction if the man - upto the accent. He earned his oscar.

Anonymous said...

man wacha kuongea matope. I have watched both Olita's and Whittaker's performances and their is a remarkable difference. Having actually lived in Uganda and known about Idi Amin better, and having watched documentaries made about him, Forest Whittaker was a much more realistic depiction if the man - upto the accent.Forest Whittaker earned his oscar and that was a stellar performance.

vikaryan said...

Thunderous, rip roaring performance by Joseph Olita...............

This elusive classic gem of blaxploitation is just about as magnificent as the genre ever gets. It ranks alongside if not higher than such massive epics like Shaft with its thunderous, rip roaring performance by Joseph Olita in the title role. The script writers have worked miracles, turning what could have ended up as a one dimensional political docu-thriller to one way beyond the hysterical realms of farce. The movie lurches along at breakneck speed beginning with a short blurb about Uganda, mostly unintelligible, followed by the joyous scenes surrounding Amin's military takeover from Milton Obote, civilian if horribly corrupt ruler of the ravaged nation.

Amin as brilliantly played by Olita as a slavering, demented, sex maniac with the intellect of a drooling three year old. It is a truly great performance and lights up the whole film with its energy and dynamism. Olita carries the film off on his mighty shoulders obviously relishing and "living" his role to the hilt. Perhaps most shocking of all is that the dynamics on screen are more or less strictly in line with the various biographies written on Amin and Uganda through the turbulent 70's. Few liberties seem to have been taken by the film makers and perhaps it is just the films sensationalist manner that suggests that the material is somewhat removed from reality.

Dora Bloch and Entebbe are facts as are Amin's expulsions of citizens of Asian origin. He likened himself to Hitler and idolized him promising a statue "in the middle of Kampala". Amin also changed allies with every new season, courting the British and Israeli's and then spouting some marxist rubbish to please the Soviets. Later he takes to Islam and when he finds his circle of friends rapidly diminishing and is left with a mottley bunch of eager beaver Libyans. "Allah save me" mutters Amin when an assassination attempt just misses. Earlier he charms some departing Russians at the airport with some of the worst played accordian in history!!

His pandering to the Arabs was timely as he has been granted a life of comfort in Saudi Arabia, avoiding any retribution for the atrocities he committed. This is all documented in accounts by among others, Dennis Hills, an Amin confidante for a some time as well as a British based journalist.

Overwhelmingly though, the film works as a fabulous slice of outlandish black comedy, pardon the pun. Olita is dynamite and the film provides guffaws by the cartload, and refreshes those parts most movies cant even hope to achieve!

If that wasn't enough, One ends up cheering for the ogrous Amin by the movie's conclusion, for his perseversence if nothing else, and his sexual conquests of course. What a joy it was to be able to purchase this classic gem - one that we have been after for many a year without success. We are now proud to add this epic blaxploitation epic to our distinctly manic collection of films for all to enjoy.

Ownah said...

Keep up the good work.