Congo: White King, Red Rubber, Black Death (2003)
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King Leopold II took over leadership of Belgium from his father, King Leopold I, in 1865, and in 1885, hoping to gain power and wealth as well as assuming control of overseas territories like most other European nations of the time, Leopold created, through political lobbying and military force, the Belgian Free State. Its name a grim irony, the Belgian Free State gave Leopold and his cohorts power over the African territory of the Congo, which he soon exploited for its large supplies of ivory and rubber -- the latter an especially lucrative resource after the invention of the pneumatic tire. Leopold and his soldiers used the Congolese natives as forced labor, with those who refused to work for the Belgians or who violated their newly established laws punished by dismemberment, torture, or death; between 1885 and 1920, nearly ten million people were either slaughtered or worked to death in the Congo under Leopold's rule. Leopold's reign of terror in the Congo became a scandal during the last years of his rule, and he destroyed most of the documents pertaining to the Belgian Free State prior to his death; Congo: White King, Red Rubber, Black Death is a film which attempts to examine the king's crimes with the evidence that still remains. Using interviews with historians, rare documents, and historical reenactments of Leopold's atrocities, Congo: White King, Red Rubber, Black Death is framed by footage of an imagined trial with the king facing a jury for his crimes against humanity -- crimes he was never charged with in his lifetime. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi … More
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Critic Reviews for Congo: White King, Red Rubber, Black Death
Bate is to be congratulated for reminding the world of Leopold's wickedness, even if he does OD on re-enactments.
A journey into the original heart of darkness, Peter Bate's uneven but immensely important documentary examines the shameful history of Belgium's King Leopold II.
The ghastly story of King Leopold II of Belgium's reign of terror in Africa during the late 19th- and early-20th centuries forms the subject of Peter Bate's documentary.
Director Peter Bate coolly juxtaposes these accounts of human misery with views of opulent present-day Brussels (where statues of Leopold still stand), protesting against the erasure of history.
British documentarian Peter Bate frames a mix of archival materials and re-creations with a 'trial' at which Leopold listens to testimony against him from within a wood-and-glass booth.
[Director] Bate succeeds in presenting the big picture, but many of the specific episodes are less complete.
Evokes the ignorance of a country that would rather look up to its ugly past than down.
A shocking documentary on the greed, violent colonialism, and genocide brought on by King Leopold II, who raped the Congo of its resources.
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