EMAIL PAGE FOUR
COLUMN SIXTY-THREE, SEPTEMBER 1, 2001
(Copyright © 2001 Al Aronowitz)
Portside (the left side in nautical parlance) is a
news, discussion and debate service of the Committees
of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism. It
aims to provide varied material of interest to people
on the left.
mail to 'email@example.com'
Subscribe: mail to 'firstname.lastname@example.org'
Unsubscribe: mail to 'email@example.com'
List owner: firstname.lastname@example.org
Web address: <http://www.egroups.com/group/portside>
Digest mode: visit Web site
* * *
Movie review: Lumumba
Date: Wed, 27 Jun 2001 20:07:10 -0400
SPRINGS -- "Nobody knows what happened that night in Katanga," and so
begins a tremendously important film about the first elected prime minister of
the Congo, Patrice Lumumba, who served for mere months in 1960 and was
permanently removed under still-mysterious circumstances 40 years ago Wednesday.
Haitian director Raoul Peck's often brilliant, utterly absorbing Lumumba"
screened Monday afternoon at the Nortel Palm Springs International Film
at the same moment, Congolese President Laurent Kabila, a Lumumba follower and
controversial strongman, was reported assassinated in what might be a coup and
what might escalate a three-year conflict that some have called Africa's first
Zeitgeist Films release for summer that couldn't possibly be timelier for
educating American audiences about the miserable legacy of European colonialism
and Cold War politics, "Lumumba" is serious and disturbing. There's a
large cast of historical figures, including a chilling portrait of Mobutu Sese
Seko (nee Joseph Mobutu), the general who came to power in a 1965 coup, changed
the name of the country to Zaire and was finally overthrown by the forces of
Kabila in 1997.
film opens with a depiction of Lumumba's ignominious fate -- his body and the
corpses of two companions are hacked up and burned by two Belgian soldiers one
windy night far away from any witnesses. With a voice-over of the
French-speaking Lumumba (Eric Ebouaney) from beyond death's door -- the film's
one notable break from a stringently realistic approach -- the nearly two-hour
film skips his early life and begins in earnest when the passionate activist
first becomes a popular leader in Stanleyville (now Kisangani).
very complex historical events are deftly illuminated given the potentially huge
cast (President Eisenhower, President Kennedy, U.N. secretary general Dag
Hammarksjold, Ernesto "Che" Guevara) and mountains of material. In the
film's accompanying publicity, Peck (who made the documentary "Lumumba,
Death of a Prophet") details how the project evolved, including early
screenplay drafts that worked in the cliche of a white character to help open up
the story to nonethnic audiences.
Peck and co-writer Pascal Bonitzer stay focused on the key events and such
relationships as that of Lumumba with the Congo's first president, Joseph
imprisonment and torture for organizing opposition, Lumumba is allowed to attend
the conferences in Brussels that made independence a thorny reality.
a faithful wife (Mariam Kaba) and child who he fatefully refuses to abandon when
his dream of leading a united Congo comes crashing down, Lumumba becomes the
enemy of powerful regional strongmen Godefroid Munungo (Dieudonne Kabongo) and
Moise Tshombe (Pascal Nzonzi).
an immediate post-election problem controlling the white officer-led national
armed forces to an inability to keep his enemies from making deals with the CIA
and other outside interests while himself reluctant to turn to the USSR for aid
because he fears for his own life, Lumumba is swiftly and ruthlessly backed into
a corner with no hope of escape. The film pulls no punches in
the blame on Kasavubu, Kennedy and Godefroid Munungo (Dieudonne Kabongo), whose
Katanga province is where Lumumba is taken to after a desperate flight from
house arrest in Leopoldville (now Kinshasa).
the presence of new faces in nearly every scene and a flurry of names and
places, "Lumumba" rates as one of the most accomplished and vital
historical films to be made in a long time that also succeeds as a fully
engaging moviegoing experience. The performances are outstanding. Ebouaney is
dominating, and one comes to completely sympathize with this intelligent,
principled man. Among many stirring highlights is Lumumba's broadcast speech in
Brussels that addressed Belgium's past crimes, though one can feel his fate
being sealed even at this triumphant moment.
French and Lingala with English subtitles and filmed in Zimbabwe, Mozambique and
Belgium, "Lumumba" premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, but one
sorely recommended special engagement is an immediate screening for incoming
diplomats and national-level elected leaders, including Secretary of State
nominee Colin Powell and his boss.
Director: Raoul Peck
Screenwriters: Raoul Peck, Pascal Bonitzer
Executive producer: Jacques Bidou
Director of photography: Bernard Lutic
Production designer: Denis Renault
Editor: Jacques Comets
Costume designer: Charlotte David
Music: Jean-Claude Petit
Casting: Sylvie Brochere
Patrice Lumumba: Eriq Ebouaney
Joseph Mobutu: Alex Descas
Maurice Mpolo: Theophile Moussa Sowie
Joseph Kasavubu: Maka Kotto
Godefroid Munungo: Dieudonne Kabongo
Moise Tshombe: Pascal Nzonzi
Pauline Lumumba: Mariam Kaba
Running time -- 115 minutes
No MPAA rating ##
* * *
CLICK HERE TO GET TO INDEX OF COLUMN SIXTY-THREE
CLICK HERE TO GET TO INDEX OF COLUMNS
Blacklisted Journalist can be contacted at P.O.Box 964, Elizabeth, NJ 07208-0964
The Blacklisted Journalist's E-Mail Address:
THE BLACKLISTED JOURNALIST IS A SERVICE MARK OF AL ARONOWITZ