Release Date: August 18th, 2006 (Village East Cinemas) by Linden Productions.
Directed by Pippa Scott and Oreet Rees.
BASIC PREMISE: A documentary about King Leopold the history of the Congo since King Leopold II used his power to exploit it in the late 19th Century. Based on the book by Adam Hochschild.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: King Leopold’s Ghost covers much of the same territory of Congo: White King, Red Rubber, Black Death, but presents the history of the Congo more coherently and with crisper, well-edited visuals to keep you entertained. King Leopold II seems, essentially, as evil and corrupt as Hitler. He took advantage of Congolese slaves to make them work for his own profit while allowing them to be raped and even tortured to death. The profit came from the abundant source of rubber and ivory found in the Congo. Meanwhile, through his deception of public relations, he gave the impression to the rest of the world that there’s nothing wrong with his colonization of the Congo. George Washington Williams, the first Africa-American elected to the Ohio State Legislature, tried unsuccessfully to save the Congolese from further massacres by writing a letter to Leopold condemning his actions. Edmund Morel, an exporter for the Congo rubber industry, helped a great deal in publicizing the horrific conditions. After Leopold’s death, the Congo didn’t change much even with the help of Patrice Lumumba, an anti-colonial leader who got forced out office through a coup d’etat. Other leaders—“ghosts” of Leopold—exploited the Congo with other natural resources besides rubber and ivory. Co-directors Pippa Scott and Oreet Rees do a terrific job of bringing together all of this information in a chronologically, easy-to-follow way. They use interviews with experts and effect footage with voice-over narration by Don Cheadle and Alfre Woodard. James Cromwell does the voice of Leopold as he reads letters he had sent to officials that cover up all of the corruption. Oreet Rees also does a great job of editing the film so that it doesn’t have that “made for TV” feel. It moves along quickly while remaining fascinating and engaging from start to finish. By the end, you’ll be tempted to read the book of the same name written by Adam Hochschild.
SPIRITUAL VALUE: After learning about the tragic history of the Congo, you’ll easily appreciate the democratic country you live in now as well as the relative safety--not that America doesn’t have any problems, but leave that for Michael Moore to explore.
INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: None.
NUMBER OF TIMES I CHECKED MY WATCH: 0 IN A NUTSHELL: Fascinating, illuminating and thoroughly engaging. An important documentary.
RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater (1st Run)
The "K" Menu