(2016, 280 min)
Country: Denmark, U.S.
Director: Niels Krogsgard
I Am the Ambassador is a ten-episode documentary series that depicts the life of the former U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Denmark, Rufus Gifford. He was the financial director of President Barack Obama's reelection campaign in 2012 before moving to Denmark in 2013 to take office, along with his partner Stephen DeVincent and their dog Argos. The series offers exclusive inside perspectives to Rufus' life as an ambassador, spending his time meeting as many Danes as possible to get an understanding of their culture. As an ambassador from the United States he works to continuously establish and maintain the relationship between the U.S. and Denmark, while also fighting for LGBT rights - an important cause for Rufus both professionally and personally.
Rufus Gifford, openly gay former American ambassador to Denmark, is not your typical diplomat for many reasons and the chief one is that he has his own reality show made by Danish television. Actually it is a documentary series, not a reality show.
The cameras follow Gifford around, doing what he does as ambassador and each episode also offers a candid glimpse into his personal life in Copenhagen. We see him say goodbye to his golden retriever as he heads off to work, embrace his husband Stephen DeVincent and ride with him as he travels to Danish high schools to talk with young students.
The idea to chronicle Gifford’s life on TV was proposed by Danish television producers and is based on his experiences as an ambassador. When he first took the job, Gifford was traveling around Denmark and really trying to get a sense of how the US Embassy in Copenhagen really fits into the culture in Denmark. One of the things that really struck him was that Danes really had not a clue about what we did. There was sort of a fascination with his work, but there was this perception that he would play golf during the day and go to cocktail parties at night and in between, go into the Embassy.
Gifford’s was a political appointee serving under President Barack Obama and some Danes urged the ambassador to mount his own campaign for the US presidency. Most Danes are on a first-name basis with the affable 41-year-old with leading-man looks and that is a result of the success of the documentary. Gifford prefers the word documentary to describe the show because “frankly, I’d like to have as much distance between me and the Kardashians as possible.
Since 2014, it has given viewers an up-close-and-personal look at foreign relations and his personal life. We see him bantering with his then boyfriend, now husband, veterinarian Stephen DeVincent, being briefed at the embassy; lunching with the Danish defense minister (“It’s our job to help build an international coalition [in Iraq]”); learning Danish; singing a cappella about commerce with the trade minister to “New York, New York”; working out at the gym; hosting an outdoor screening for the entertainment industry at the residence; attending gay-pride events; and celebrating his 40th birthday with an intimate gathering of American friends and at Rydhave, the 1885 villa where the couple live with their golden retriever, Argos (“Argie”). When aired for the first time, the show became an immediate hit—and went on to win Gifford the Danish equivalent of an Emmy.
The idea for the show began with a YouTube video, a State Department–produced, meet-the-ambassador promo that got the attention of TV producer Erik Struve Hansen, who’d recently done a reality show with a Danish pop star. Struve Hansen says he saw beyond “corny” scenes of Gifford introducing himself in Danish, kayaking with DeVincent on the Potomac, and talking about Denmark. Instead he saw a guy who “looked like a Hollywood film star” and was “warm and had good energy.” Gifford was also open about his sexuality and active on social media and is the very model of a modern diplomat.
The ambassador was about a year into the job when Struve Hansen approached him about the show after Gifford had spent having spent a lot of time getting to know Danes. After studying at Brown University, Gifford fled the Boston bedroom community of Manchester-by-the-Sea for a career in Hollywood where he became a film producer. But by 2004, he was having a late quarter-life crisis and decided to go to business school, quit his job anyway and volunteered for Kerry’s presidential campaign—appointing himself “California house-party coordinator,” speaking at weekend campaign parties, and collecting donations. This led to his eventual hire by the campaign. Post-election, he made a name for himself as a political consultant. In 2008, he turned down a job with Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, hoping to get a call from Obama whom he’d met and briefly spoken with in 2007.By 2012, Gifford was finance director of the president’s re-election campaign, helping to raise $1.2 billion. In 2013, he became one of the first openly gay ambassadors confirmed by the Senate.
On the show, Gifford shares that how as an anxious kid he needed his mom at the front of the school’s pickup line every day—and how she later discovered he was gay by reading his diary. Gifford is candid on-camera, speaking to viewers as close confidants. The result is a charismatic portrait that’s has had Danes loving him and DeVincent and Argie.
The 2015 season finale in which Gifford and the DeVincent got married at Copenhagen’s City Hall, on October 10, in front of friends, family, and a big crowd, including press gathered outside.
-- Reviews by Amos Lassen (http://www.reviewsbyamoslassen.com)