King Leopolds Ghost film is movie with a story line of greed, terror and heroism in Colonial Africa. The two-hour documentary depicts horrifying events that plagued DRC Congo region for more than 120 years. It focuses on the atrocities present in Congo as a result of King Leopold IIs rule and the development of one of the worlds first human rights movement in Congo. Social justice and colonization are the central themes covered in the movie in which Pippa Scott and Oreet Rees are the main directors. The film contains the unbelievable story of Congos brutal history with its Belgian colonizers. Leopard, the dictator, represents the colonial government that had vested interest in the valuable resources of Congo and instituted forced labor from slaves.
The genesis of tyranny in Congo began with an explorer named Stanley. He exchanged bales of cloth with the natives for signatures on land rights documents. In the mid-1880s, Leopold together with Henry Morton Stanley and with the approval of the worlds leading powers seized the Democratic Republic of Congo and turned it to a personal capitalist venture. With the help of a large private army, he depleted precious resources, butchered elephants for ivory and deforested trees for rubber. The Congolese nationals, on the other hand, were subjected to slavery, mistreatment, mutilation, and enslavement. This only added to their terrifying and appalling brutality. Nevertheless, a total of about 10 million people perished.
In the film, boys are seen to haul themselves up small tree trunks in search of valuable rubber. Collecting and extracting congealed rubber was indeed a daunting task. The European conquerors were determined to plunder natural resources. King Leopold outsourced cheap labor from the slaves who came from the indigenous population. Stanley and Leopold enforced slave labor behind a stage-managed smokescreen of apparent innocence. Adam Hochschild postulates that Leopold was a master of spin control. So bad was the mistreatment that a total of 81 right hands were severely mutilated on grounds that the slaves did not attain the rubber quota set. The reason as to why the government sanctioned violence was to make a profit.
When the reign of King Leopold came to an end, the population had reduced to half while social welfare had been deprived substantially. By the time Congo was attaining its independence in 1960, the rise of Patrice Lumumba brought hope for a better future out of colonialism. Unfortunately, people of good character such as Patrice are always endangered. The Americans, Belgians, as well as the United Nations, joined effort, captured him and finally murdered him mercilessly. After all, they saw him as an incoming threat to the accomplishment of their missions! It was Joseph Mobutu, the man who was destined to remain in power for the next 38 years. He organized a coup, took over the government. Unfortunately, he continued to maintain close links with the Western superpowers since he also stood to benefit and be rewarded heavily with lots of wealth.
Though King Leopolds Ghost continued to ravage the rich Congo, the conflict officially ended in the year 2003. However, the years of plight, struggle, turmoil and war were terrible atrocities that had taken their toll. The film King Leopolds Ghost is truly a brilliant documentary that offers and intriguing insight into the grim colonial legacy that still haunts the Congo today.
Dargis, M. (2006). [online]. 'King Leopolds Ghost' Recounts Tales of Unimaginable Terror.
King Leopolds Ghost. Dir. Pippa Scott. Direct Cinema, 2008. Film.
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