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Harry Belafonte, Martin Scorsese Teaming To Produce Miniseries On Leopold II's Brutal Congo Reign

by Tambay A. Obenson
September 12, 2013 6:59 PM
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Congolese posing with the severed hands of those who failed to make the daily rubber sap quota

Interesting and pleasantly unexpected pairing, and a curious subject that they've chosen to tackle...

Martin Scorsese has teamed up with Harry Belafonte to produce a mini-series on King Leopold II - the Belgian king from 1865 to 1909, whom we can also call the Butcher of Congo, responsible for the deaths and mutilations of millions of Congolese during his reign, and who became incredibly rich from the country's natural resources - specifically plantations of rubber, a commodity that was in very high demand during that period as Europe was amidst an industrial revolution. 

The riches enjoyed by modern day Belgium owe very much to the people and land of the Congo - a country that, today, continues to be soaked in strife, in the form of conflict for control of the vast mineral wealth that exists there.

During his reign over Congo, The Butcher had some 10 million Congolese mutilated and massacred, cutting off their hands and genitals, having them beaten to death, starving them, burning villages and more. 

And he did all this without even setting foot in the Congo.

This is the Congo of Patrice Lumumba, of Mobutu Sese Seko, Laurent Kabila, his son and current sitting president Joseph Kabila, and before them all, of Joseph Conrad's much discussed and criticized Heart of Darkness.

How Scorsese and Belafonte intend to bring this horrid period in our history to life on screen is currently underwraps, with Deadline reporting that Scorsese and Belafonte are currently gathering source material and interviewing writers, with Scorsese planning to direct the first episode, and then secure top names to direct the rest.

That's all the information available on the project at this time, which stemmed from Belafonte's own awareness and interest in bringing the sordid tale to the screen.

So now we wait...

I should note that, you can find a documentary made on this very subject, released by ArtMattan, titled Congo: White King, Red Rubber, Black Death - an eye-opening documentary on the greed, shockingly brutal colonialism, and genocide brought on by King Leopold II.

It's not a film that's widely available, so visit the ArtMattan website to learn more about the doc, and purchase it HERE.

Watch a clip of it below:

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  • syhprum | December 25, 2013 9:30 AMReply

    This appalling genocide with a greater number of deaths greater than the murder of Jews and others by the NAZI,s seems to be little remembered .

  • Yvette Ganier | December 24, 2013 12:01 AMReply

    Is it a narrative or doc? Doesn't say a documentary in this article.

  • Hotep | December 23, 2013 10:41 PMReply

    I hope this doc shows how the white world; especially the USA is still deeply involved in the conflicts in the Congo. A lot of minerals to produce/power our coveted electronics are still stolen from this country as we speak.

  • Rosina | September 15, 2013 2:25 AMReply

    And it stills goes on. This is a recent documentary of what's happening now in the Congo.

  • johnny waller | September 14, 2013 1:47 PMReply

    Luther King Jr says.. A society is always eager to cover misdeeds with a cloak of forgetfulness;

  • Sydney Levine | September 14, 2013 11:32 AMReply

    The museum of King Leopold in Brusssels is in itself shocking! I have never seen anything (still) so colonially explicit in its revealing its own brutality without meaning to do so. After seeing that I found a children's book in a Paris flea market about "Our Congo" from 1948 which, while against the colonialism of Belgium, still reveals incredibly shocking racism.

  • UM | September 13, 2013 5:53 PMReply

    Sounds fantastic. I hope they get some black writers and directors involved. Too many great people from all over the world that should be contributing.

  • Jesse Hawkes | September 13, 2013 11:48 AMReply

    It is worth noting how the current Belgian government relates to (deals with) this history. In a genocide memorial created by the Belgian gov in Kigali Rwanda, they speak about genocides loosely from the past (e.g. conquistadores in the americas) but fail to talk about Leopold's reign Over Congo in equal ways.

  • Kwatamani | September 13, 2013 10:01 AMReply

    It's about time. The holistic living truth will be revealed regarding King Leopold and others of the pale mental mindset. For a heads up, check out Spiritual Wars: Supremacy Crusades and Jihads of the Master Warlords, part 1 of a 4 part series on youtube.

  • Dean Pavlakis | September 13, 2013 9:12 AMReply

    As a fan of White King, Red Rubber and a historian of the Congo reform movement that battled Leopold, I am pleased to see another effort to bring this period to the attention of the public. I heartily recommend the documentary to people who want to learn more.
    A couple of notes: Leopold's rubber was gathered not on plantations but from vines deep in the forest - an altogether more hazardous way to collect the stuff. Also, while the number of dead may have reached 10 million, most of them died through starvation and disease when Leopold's forces destroyed villages and food supplies. The number directly murdered , even if "only" a million or two, was still horrific.
    I hope Scorsese and Belafonte are reaching out to historians as well as writers to ensure that their portrayals are historically accurate. For instance, mutilations for not collecting enough rubber were not that common. Even in the photo above, the men were murdered, not mutilated, by the concession company - it was their friends who cut off the hands to show the missionaries the terrible fate of the victims because they could not carry the bodies all the way to the mission.

  • LF | September 12, 2013 9:53 PMReply

    So glad this project is being done. Much of the turbulence of the present day Congo is a result of the country's violent not so distant colonial past! The way forward - is to examine the past!

  • deecreative | September 12, 2013 7:15 PMReply

    and the Congo is still dealing with mass violence, how could such small countries inflict so much pain on an entire continent? Extremely sad!

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