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Congo: White King, Red Rubber, Black Death

✭ ✭ ✭   Read critic reviews

Belgium, Australia, Canada · 2004
1h 24m
Director Peter Bate
Starring Nick Fraser, Elie Lison, Roger May, Steve Driesen
Genre Documentary, History, TV Movie

The true, astonishing story of the horrors King Leopold II inflicted on the Congo was covered up and erased for over fifty years. Posing as a protector of Africans fleeing the slave trade, he turned the Congo into his private colony where it became a Gulag-esque labor camp of shocking brutality.

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What are critics saying?


Chicago Reader by Andrea Gronvall

Dramatization is often a questionable tactic in documentaries, but by picturing Leopold (Elie Larson) on trial like Adolf Eichmann, Peter Bate adroitly compares the colonial genocide to the Holocaust.


Village Voice by Joshua Land

A formal hodgepodge, Congo suffers from abrasive voice-over narration, stilted re-enactments, and an awkward courtroom conceit, but gets by on its shocking material.


TV Guide Magazine by Maitland McDonagh

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, like Nazi Adolf Eichmann at Nuremberg.


The A.V. Club by Nathan Rabin

Regrettably, Bate uses many of the tools of tabloid television in making his case, including heavy-handed reenactments, an ominous, sinister score, and overly dramatic narration delivered in a voice shaking with outrage.


Film Threat by Phil Hall

A remarkable triumph of documentary filmmaking. It is impossible to walk away from this film without being jolted.


Variety by Robert Koehler

A stunning indictment of Belgium's brutal colonization of the Congo in the late 19th century, Brit documaker Peter Bate's White King, Red Rubber, Black Death illustrates how European exploitation in Africa caused irreparable damage to the continent.

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