Congo: White King, Red Rubber, Black Death (2003)
BBC Four Storyville
The story of King Leopold II of Belgium's brutal colonisation of central Africa, turning it into a vast rubber-harvesting labour camp in which millions died. What the Belgians did in the Congo was forgotten for over 50 years. It's a shocking, astonishing story. In a way, it's a horrifying prelude in European history to the Holocaust. Between 1870 and 1900 the Congo was pillaged - it was valuable as a source of rubber. King Leopold created his own colony in the Congo over which he ruled unchecked. Peter Bate's film is a marvellously made reconstruction of those days - it features footage of Congolese villages and explains with actors exactly what happened. It's really a memorable film - the painfulness of what is described is counterbalanced by the great skill in the storytelling.
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 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.