Friday, June 6, 2008

What You Missed on June 1st: Congo: White King, Red Rubber, Black Death

As part of the African Film Series at the Parkway Theater in Oakland, we are glad to bring to you films that reflect the experiences of people of African descent.

Congo: White King, Red Rubber, Black Death
Director: Peter Bate
100 minutes-Documentary
English/French/Dutch with English subtitles

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 (biased) diatribe" for depicting King Leopold II 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.

For further reading on the subject, check out:
King Leopold's Ghost by Adam Hochschild
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Here is the opening clip of "Congo: White King, Red Rubber, Black Death" courtesy of YouTube:

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