Review: Lumumba

directed by Raoul Peck, 2002

“This film is not an ‘adaptation,’ it aims to be a true story. I want to extract the cinematic narrative from reality by remaining as true to the facts as possible,” so said Raoul Peck. Using archival images of official history (many of film’s pivotal scenes are moving recreations of famous still photographs and newsreel footage from Lumumba’s short political life and assassination), Peck crafted a documentary-style recreation and meditation for what might have been in the events surrounding Lumumba’s assasination.

Filmed at whirlwind speed, the film opens with Lumumba’s assasination, to then jump at the beginning of his career as beer salesman, his subsequent short rise as Congo’s first Prime Minister and surrounding events, concluding back to his demise towards the end. While familiarity with Congolese history is advisable to add more dimensions and comprehension to the fast-paced unrolling of events and reactions, the film would still be engaging even to those unfamiliar with the history, presuming further familiarisation can happen later.

(At the very least, though, a bit of basic background on King Leopold II’s regime and Mobutu wouldn’t hurt you.)

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