CONGO: WHITE KING, RED RUBBER, BLACK DEATH (Unrated) Release Date: October 21st, 2005 (NYC-Quad Cinema) by ArtMattan Productions.
Directed by Peter Bate.
In French and Flemish with subtitles.
BASIC PREMISE: A documentary about how King Leopold II’s power in the Congo led to the massacre of millions of Congolese over the course of 25 years since the late 19th Century.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: This documentary is very bold for taking the heroic image of King Leopold II and completely changing it around. It is disturbing how, because of him, thousands of Congolese were brutally tortured and murdered in what should be considered a Congolese Holocaust. With interviews from historians, Leopold’s dark secrets are slowly revealed. But the real crux of the information comes from the missionaries who were actually there to witness it all. The missionaries’ descriptions of the torture are very graphic in context, but they are essential in depicting the brutal truth of what had really happened back then. King Leopold’s motive is explained early on: he wanted to profit from extracting rubber from the Congo and shipping it to Antwerp. He certainly did not civilize or help them in any way—as one of the Congolese admits, he only destroyed the Congo and its people. He even wanted proof of the killings for every bullet by having their right hands cut off and brought to him. King Leopold basically succeeded by installing fear in everyone: The missionaries were too scared for their lives to go against him in any way. Edmund Morel, a worker in charge of exporting the rubber, gradually became his advocate and wrote a book called Red Rubber, where he exploited all of the king’s cruelties and corruptions. Even though the Belgian government and people eventually turned against him, King Leopold was never punished for his crimes. In fact, there are statues that hail him as a leader civilized the Congo and, at the same time, strengthened Belgium by make it wealthier with profits from the rubber business. By the end of this film, you will know exactly how dirty these profits are despite that Leopold destroyed a lot of his incriminating evidence.
SPIRITUAL VALUE: Power can be used for in both good and bad ways, but, unfortunately, during his reign, he used it in an evil way. It is very moving to hear the missionaries’ accounts of what they saw. It is very heartbreaking that King Leopold’s dark past has been hidden for so many years without him ever showing regret or remorse As the narrator says, nobody will every know what thoughts went on in his mind while he was laying on his deathbed.
INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: None.
NUMBER OF TIMES I CHECKED MY WATCH: 0
THE BOTTOM LINE: A bold, disturbing, and unforgettable documentary!
RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater (1st Run)
The "C" Menu