Monday, August 21, 2006

'King Leopold’s Ghost' Recounts Tales of Unimaginable Terror

MANOHLA DARGIS in the new york times

Europe’s genocidal adventures in Africa receive a passionate reckoning in the ambitious documentary “King Leopold’s Ghost.” Working from Adam Hochschild’s best-selling history of the same title, the producer and first-time director Pippa Scott has enlisted a legion of talking heads to help tell a story of insatiable greed and unimaginable terror. Among those tapped for their expertise are academics, historians, Congolese elders and, for some reason, the memoirist Frank McCourt. Mr. Hochschild proves particularly effective, since he gets right to it: “What made it possible for Congo state officials to deal out all this pain and terror? Race.”

The barbarism of King Leopold of Belgium, the subject of another recent documentary, “Congo: White King, Red Rubber, Black Death,” remains shocking. In the mid-1880’s, with the help of the explorer Henry Morton Stanley and the approval of the world’s leading powers, Leopold seized a swath of Africa (then the Congo Free State, now the Democratic Republic of Congo) more than 76 times the size of Belgium, turning it into a personal capitalist venture. Using a large private army whose numbers included Congolese orphans, the king and his agents squeezed the land of its resources, slaughtering elephants for ivory, tapping trees for rubber. The Congolese were uprooted, separated, enslaved, whipped and mutilated (hands were cut off, sometimes for accounting purposes), leaving as many as 10 million dead. (read entire article)


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