Jorge Mendoza is a building manager in New York City, where he presides over a group of apartments with a watchful eye. But he also has dreams of becoming a dictator one day. When he is summoned to the United Nations for an unexpected reason, he takes his first steps onto the world stage.
Director Zach Carver has crafted a unique, entertaining yet complex short documentary about what people used to call “a real character.” It begins as a typical reality-television style documentary, complete with interviews and “day in the life” coverage that follows Jorge as he goes about his day.
But it mixes in more heightened found footage as well as commentary from academics that offer perspective on the role that dictators play in the theater of politics. The juxtaposition offers a hint at what kind of “cult of personality” is needed to become a dictator, how dictators often mix in true conviction with a performer’s instinct to shape and hone their selves to fit into a narrative — and how well Jorge actually embodies these qualities.
The heart of the film’s appeal is the man at the center of it all. Jorge is uniquely compelling — both warm and open, especially about his grandiose dreams, which he cherishes with a joy that is both striking and authentic.
Discerning viewers suspect that Jorge knows his fantasy will never become real life, but his unbridled pleasure in his dreams makes him oddly joyful to be around — and perhaps illuminates just why dictators appeal to the masses, and makes “Amateur Dictator” an unexpected pleasure to watch.