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The Belgian government has denounced this documentary as a "tendentious diatribe" for depicting King Leopold II - still a heroic figure in Belgium - as the moral forebear of Adolf Hitler, responsible for the death of 10 million people in his rapacious exploitation of the Congo.
This true, shocking, astonishing story of what the Belgians did in the Congo was forgotten for over 50 years.
Congo:White King, Red Rubber, Black Death describes Leopold II, King of the Belgium's private colony of the Congo between 1885 and 1908 as a gulag labor camp of shocking brutality.
Leopold posed as the protector of Africans fleeing Arab slave-traders but, in reality, he carved out an empire based on terror to harvest rubber.
Families were held as hostages, starving to death if the men failed to produce enough wild rubber. Children's hands were chopped off as punishment for late deliveries.
The Belgian government has denounced this documentary as a "tendentious diatribe" for depicting King Leopold II of Belgium as the moral forebear of Adolf Hitler, responsible for the death of 10 million people in his rapacious exploitation of the Congo.
Yet, it is agreed today that the first Human Rights movement was spurred by what happened in the Congo.
What the Belgians did in the Congo was forgotten for over 50 years. It's a shocking, astonishing story. In a way, it's a horrifying prelude in European history to the Holocaust.
Between 1870 and 1900 the Congo was pillaged - it was valuable as a source of rubber. King Leopold created his own colony in the Congo over which he ruled unchecked.
Peter Bate's film is a marvelously made reconstruction of those days - it features footage of Congolese villages and explains with actors exactly what happened.
Congo: White King, Red Rubber, Black Death is really a memorable film - the painfulness of what is described is counterbalanced by the great skill in the storytelling.
|Belgium/UK/Congo|2004|84 mins|documentary|English and Flemish/French with English subtitles|Peter Bate, dir.|
"(a) stunning indictment of Belgium's brutal colonization of the Congo in the late 19th century."~ VARIETY
"Evokes the ignorance of a country that would rather look up to its ugly past than down." ~ SLANT MAGAZINE
"A journey into the original "Heart of Darkness”."~ NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Bonus Documentary with DVD: BOMA TERVUREN, THE JOURNEY
Belguim, 1999, 54 mins, documentary in French with English, Francis Dujardin, dir.
The extraordinary and tragic saga of 267 Congolese, brought to Brussels for the 1897 World's Fair. After some four months of travel towards Belgium, they are exhibited before a million visitors. Subjected to the crushing gaze of the "Whites" and the cold climate, many fell prey to disease and even some lost their lives.
The dead were hastily dispatched in a common grave, sparking a fierce debate in Belgian society. The project was overblown, but necessary in the eyes of the first colonizers, who presumed to have tamed the far-flung savages.
One hundred years later, Congolese compatriots return to the scene of these events and question the "Whites" of today on the incredible story of that "human zoo". They carry out the ritual of "a return to the earth" by way of reparation for too great a hurt…
A film that revisits a century of stereotyped conceptions about the Africans. And running through it, the almost aching question: "How is today different?"