Monday, April 6, 2009
Our Friends at the Bank
Uganda in the mid-1990s is the setting for Thursday's documentary, Our Friends at the Bank, which shows some aspects of the tripartite negotiations within and between the government of Uganda, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund.
I had several teaching goals in mind when I first decided to show Our Friends at the Bank, but watching the film again yesterday, while I was also thinking about the interviewing exercises you have been working on, one more course-related question emerged: Who is the client?
The adjunct faculty and I have been discussing this issue, and I plan on devoting some class time to it when we review the Fourth of July footage together. In addition to the 10 questions that I have prepared for you (see the focus-and-feedback sheet posted on TWEN) here is another set of questions: Which relationships in the film are analogous to the attorney-client relationship, and within those relationships what are the factors that make them different from the attorney-client relationship? Please mull this over while you watch.
Responsibility to and for clients is something else for us to think about. In the 2006 film The Last King of Scotland, starring Forest Whitaker as the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, I noticed a motif that came back to me when I first watched Our Friends at the Bank.* Several times during The Last King of Scotland the camera focuses on a mosquito. I can't be certain what the filmmaker intended the mosquito scenes to convey, but what I took from the images were messages of blood-extraction and disease.
Those messages are consistent with the role of the anti-hero, the Scottish physician Nicholas Garrigan who, even while his patient (Idi Amin) despoils the whole country, enjoys the kind of celebrity lifestyle that an uncharitable observer would describe as parasitical.
The mosquito motif does not lead me to pose any further concrete questions of my own for you at this point. I am just asking you to ponder it and, if it triggers questions in your mind around the subjects of interviewing, counseling, ad negotiating, please share them with the rest of us.
* Just to help orient you temporally, Idi Amin fell from power in 1979, approximately 15 years before the events that Our Friends at the Bank covers.