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8386: Elombe Brath on "Lumumba" - REVIEW (fwd)

From: <chris98@pacbell.net>
To: <MumiaFriends@aspenlinx.com>

| Raoul Peck's "Lumumba" Surmounts Past Film Tradition 
| In Treatment Of Black Heroes In World History 
| By Elombe Brath <elombeplc@aol.com>
| Far too often whenever Black people are invited to go 
| to the movies what is on the screen is an embarrassment,
| disparaging us and our historical legacy. This has been
| particularly true with the many comedies that seem to
| dominate the Black film presentations, mocking and making
| fun of the lives of the masses of our people. This includes
| movies even produced and directed by highly talented members
| of the African community and feature Black actors and
| actresses. But the dilemma does not only impact on film
| comedies. it is also true of dramatic films where real-life
| heroes have had their lives misappropriated to be misused as
| central figures in white produced cinematic features to give
| a film some exotic or esoteric flavor. This goes back to at
| least the 1930's, where the historical great king of the
| Congo, the Mani-Congo, was dehumanized when Hollywood moguls
| took so-called artistic license and transformed him into a
| gigantic gorilla which they called King Kong, and
| transferred the setting from central Africa to an offshore
| island, initiating a spin-off series of movies that
| denigrated the history of Africa's third largest country and
| its people.
| There was also a humiliating portrayal of Tshaka, the great
| 19th century Zulu king whose brilliant military strategies
| were later taught to U.S. Army officers at West Point. In
| contrast to Tshaka's acknowledged role in world history, his
| characterization in the insulting defamatory film entitled
| Untamed was distorted and reduced to that of an African
| Tonto-like assistant to Hollywood's glamour-boy screen star
| Tyrone Powers, with Tshaka fighting against his own people
| on behalf of the European settlers who would go on to
| misrule South Africa for at least 86 years.
| We also see such manipulation of historical figures in The
| Mummy Returns, the latest edition in a series of "Mummy"
| movies which traditionally has defiled Egypt's glorious
| culture. From Hollywood's early Boris Karloff (1932), Turhan
| Bey "tana leaf" horror film editions to its current
| multi-million dollar blockbuster production, where the
| genius Imhotep of ancient KMT (Kemit) is featured as an
| irate Caucasoid madman, we can clearly see a pattern to use
| film production as a propaganda tool to subliminally promote
| white superiority consensus through control of the most
| dominant vehicle - the motion picture industry - to mold
| American popular culture.
| Even the slight misinformation that was exposed in Steven
| Steilberg's Amistad, particularly his film treatment of the
| valiant Sierra Leonean Mende prince Cinque (i.e. Sengbe
| Tieh) and the melodramatic romanticization of the film's
| paternalistic white characters during that historic period,
| which seemed to cause more stress in the African community
| than admiration for at least the super star director having
| chose to produce the film in the first place. And now the
| latest use of another historical Black figure in "Pearl
| Harbor", that of Dorie Miller - a battleship steward (played
| by Cuba Gooding, Jr.) who rose to the occasion and became an
| extraordinary real-life navy hero during the December 7,
| 1941 bombing of the U.S. Hawaiian naval base, whose heroics
| made him the surviving equivalent of Crispus Attucks's role
| of a martyr when he was killed at Boston Commons on March 5,
| 1770, which became a cause celebre that helped the
| then-British colonial subjects later ignite the American
| revolutionary war.
| Dorie Miller's incredible courage, in spite of U.S. racism
| barring him from being trained for combat, to come up from
| the galley and seize an anti-aircraft battle station and
| shoot down several attacking Japanese airplanes astounded
| the navy officers. As Quincy Boykin, a Dorie Miller
| enthusiast and history buff, points out, although Miller was
| awarded the Navy Cross (many believe he should have been
| given the Medal of Honor, the country's highest honor which
| is given by Congress) for his valor by Admiral Chester
| Nimitz, the commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet
| during World War II, shortly after what President Franklin
| Delano Roosevelt declared a "day of infamy", the real infamy
| was that Miller was never given a commensurate rank for his
| achievement above that of a mess attendant. He would be
| later killed in 1943 when a torpedo fired by a Japanese
| submarine sunk the U.S. navy vessel he was aboard - still
| serving meals, but with the U.S. Navy's second highest medal
| pinned on his chest.
| Nevertheless, Miller's historic achievement is only included
| in the film (admittingly described as "romantic adventure)
| now showing only to give some substance and credibility to
| the generally panned $140 million Disney [along with 13
| other listed producers] three hour movie which grossed $75.1
| million (over half of its production costs), over its
| Memorial Day weekend opening - the second-largest box-office
| sales record opening in film history.
| I could offer other examples of the historical abuse, misuse
| - and even often actual miscasting of white people to play
| the role - of heroic Black figures in history for popular
| entertainment, but I don't really find it necessary to do
| so. The point I am raising is that our portrayal in film
| habitually has left a lot to be desired.
| But just when you might have thought that maybe you
| shouldn't go to the movies anymore comes a film that is a
| real must-see. The Haitian filmmaker and director Raoul
| Peck's "Lumumba" is a film that not only must be seen but
| also must be supported by our community to show future
| producers and directors that we will patronize films that
| faithfully portray our roles in world history if they make
| them. Raoul Peck has done that and his film Lumumba
| documents the extraordinary contributions and self-sacrifice
| that the 1960's Congolese leader Patrice Emery Lumumba made
| in attempting to safeguard the territorial integrity of the
| Congo and protect its tremendous wealth against the
| avaricious greed and overwhelming odds arrayed against him
| by the United States of America and its allies.
| The fact that Peck's Lumumba deals with a particularly
| sensitive, contemporary nefarious part of U.S. history that
| is still ongoing to this very day speaks volumes to the
| director's integrity as a filmmaker and is all the more
| reason that all people, but particularly the Black
| community, who claim that they want to see films that
| reflect the character of cinema verite, must ensure that it
| has a spectacular opening and a good run so that as many of
| our people can see this brilliant and majestic work as
| possible. It is of vital importance that more of us become
| conscious of the real motivations of U.S. foreign policies
| and how the machinations to reach their objectives are
| accomplished. In regards to this factor alone, Lumumba is
| very instructive in illuminating how the U.S. and its allies
| actually undermine democracy in African states, destabilize
| fledgling governments, and help to create a mythical
| consensus that the final failed result is blamed on the
| targeted African country itself because they were not yet
| ready for self-government in the post-World War II period.
| Moreover, these tactics are time-tested and have been proven
| to work. For instance, any serious study of the U.S. and
| Western Europe's historical role in Africa would have you
| believe that the continent which gave civilization and
| government to the world is now populated by a people who had
| no history and are innately inferior and thus incapable of
| understanding either the political, social or hard sciences
| unless supervised minutely by white people, or even
| monitored by non-black-non-whites. Because undetected covert
| operations by so-called western "counterintelligence
| agencies are able to stealthily undermine African
| governments and make them appear to be ungovernable, such
| devious actions simultaneously foster the bogus notion that
| once the European colonialists are forced to leave and the
| African is left to depend his or her own initiative, then
| they automatically slide back to atavism, stagnating any
| further progress until the "good white father" returns to
| rescue them through recolonization and bring them back up to
| speed.
| To review what happened after the independence of the
| Democratic Republic of the Congo on June 30, 1961 is to
| observe a classic case of the above description of the role
| that foreign intrigue plays in the subversion of the dreams
| and aspirations of the Congolese people. This is still a
| source of discontent that haunts the second Democratic
| Republic of Congo today. In my view, It is not just a casual
| coincidence that the DRC's late president, Laurent Kabila,
| was assassinated one day short of the 40th anniversary of
| the assassination of his mentor Patrice Lumumba. And as more
| is revealed in due time, mark my words: the same forces that
| initiated the brutal murder of Patrice Lumumba in 1961,
| along with the killing of two of his closest aides, Joseph
| Okito, the head of the Congolese Senate and Maurice Mpolo,
| the Minister of Youth and Sports, as seen in the film, will
| be exposed as having spawned the current sinister cabal that
| engineered Laurent Kabila's murder five months ago. And all
| of this I believe can be readily understood after seeing
| Raoul Peck's revelatory new film.
| Why am I so enthusiastic about this film? Well, as one who
| has been involved with African liberation struggles for over
| the last 40 years in general and the Congo in particular,
| and thus being reasonably cognizant of many of its hidden
| dynamics that shaped the outcome in the film reveals, I can
| bear witness that Mr. Peck has directed a great and honest
| film. This film will surely help to direct our attention to
| the role of covert so-called anti-Communist activities by
| western nations led by the United States as being nothing
| less than insidious Cold War ploys that are projected merely
| for the benefit of western capitalist monopoly interests. As
| I have pointed out in the past, the U.S. wasn't able to
| establish its government until 13 years after its
| declaration of independence in 1776, and from 1789 until
| 1917 intervened in the internal affairs of other countries
| throughout the world 133 times before the Bolshevik
| Revolution!
| This contradiction of using the communist bogey to
| ostensibly save other nations from being taken over by
| Moscow or Beijing is exposed for the farce that it is in
| Lumumba. Peck clearly shows that this was the case in the
| Congo when Lumumba and his Congolese National Movement (MNC)
| had their newly democratically elected independent nation,
| which was founded after a free and fair electoral process,
| usurped by a conspiracy between its former Belgian rulers
| and their longtime financial partner, the U.S. The collusion
| of how these two members of the western alliance actually
| arranged the assassinations of Lumumba and members of his
| cadre and imposed their own choice to protect their vested
| economic interests: Col. Joseph Desire Mobutu, the moody,
| envious, self-serving opportunist who was co-opted - and
| contracted - by the U.S. to betray and compromise the
| Congo's national independence in order to micro-manage the
| country's vast wealth to foreign interests seated innocently
| in splendid comfort in Brussels and on Wall Street. As a
| result, according to reports, Mobutu would become second
| only to the Shah of Iran as the richest world leader, while
| the Congo had its precious natural resources sucked away as
| it was reduced to an "economic basket case", leaving the
| broad masses of Congolese people wretchedly impoverished,
| their lives reduced to intolerable misery.
| Eric Ebouney, a stage and film actor from the Cameroon with
| a mastery of oratory skills, delivers a profound and
| explosive performance portraying Lumumba which is so
| exceptional that, if there is any fairness in Academy Awards
| selections, then he should easily net a nomination and
| ultimately an Oscar for Best Actor. And Alex Descas, from
| Guadeloupe, who plays Mobutu, Lumumba's former aide-de-camp
| who turns out to become his mentor's nemesis, gives such a
| believable performance that audiences grimace and suck their
| teeth expressing an actual hatred towards the presence of
| his on-screen presence as Mobutu. Meanwhile, many are also
| now researching this particular part of the Congo's history
| to see if someone could really be as treacherous in
| betraying their benefactor as depicted in the film.
| Sadly, the real-life Mobutu Sese Seko was even worse because
| the film primarily only covers roughly about a one year time
| period - from pre-independence movement activities until
| Lumumba's assassination. The film doesn't deal with the
| subsequent 36-year repressive reign of Mobutu's exploitive
| military dictatorship which was nearly as brutal as that of
| King Leopold II, the ruthless Belgian monarch who was given
| the Congo - a territory 80 times his own Belgium - as his
| own "fiefdom", a personal reward for his part in organizing
| the Berlin Conference of November 1884 through February
| 1885, which divided Africa among the western European
| powers.
| Lumumba is a tremendously moving film experience, with
| beautiful cinematography and a stupendous soundtrack. The
| casting with both its African and European actors and
| actresses is outstanding, with everyone presenting
| exceptional performances. And of course, Raoul Peck's
| directing exhibits as much finesse as a maestro guiding an
| orchestra - especially one with storytelling skills as a
| Duke Ellington. It is no wonder that the film has already
| won the Director Fortnight Award at Cannes last year and was
| the winner for best feature film at the Pan-African Film
| Festival in Los Angeles.
| The movie was filmed in Belgium, where new information on
| the Lumumba affair has been released in droves from its
| archives, and Zimbabwe and Mozambique for its African
| locations [the war being waged posed a security question
| against shooting in the DRC], and has already astounded
| audiences in other parts of Europe, Africa, Cuba and Canada.
| At all screenings most people have left theatres awestruck
| and shaken by the depths that so-called civilized and
| democratic wealthy countries could sink in order to continue
| their exploitation of an African territory whose people had
| suffered so much misery ever since they first had contact
| with Europe four hundred years earlier, during the beginning
| of the dehumanizing European Trans-Atlantic Africa Slave
| Trade and trafficking in kidnapped human beings in Africa,
| and their later further subjugation to colonialisation.
| Lumumba is an awesome film production. It is a phenomenal
| retrospect on human suffering and the hypocrisy of so-called
| western democracies whose avaricious greed have caused a
| myriad of people of color throughout the world to laugh at
| their demand that developing countries accept their behavior
| as a paradigm for providing good governance, establishing
| democratic norms, and as the only acceptable standard for
| social advancement in the new millennium.
| But as Lumumba pointed out in his last message to his wife,
| Pauline Opanga, "History will one day have its say, but it
| will not be the history that Brussels, Paris, Washington or
| the United Nations will teach, but that will be taught in
| countries emancipated from colonialism and its puppets.
| Africa will write its own history, and it will be, to the
| north and to the south of the Sahara, a history of glory and
| dignity."
| An essential part of that history was written 10 years ago
| in Raoul Peck's prize winning documentary Lumumba - Death of
| a Prophet. The substance of that bio-doc has now been
| magnificently embellished in his poignant and breathtaking
| major feature film masterpiece, the screenplay which he
| wrote with Pascal Bonitzer. In cinematic terms, Peck's film
| is a major contribution to the re-writing of Africa's
| glorious history in dignity. And the puppeteers are not
| likely to be happy with Peck's product. But other than that,
| all people who are truly for common decency and fair play,
| who believe in social justice, and redressing old grievances
| by making right past wrongs, will see this film with a more
| passionate vision. Those who believe in ridding the world of
| debilitating racist notions dictated by the inordinate
| military power of self-styled greedy superpowers, and are
| willing to re-establish a mutually agreed upon truly
| universal behavior for all humankind - embracing all the
| respective peoples of this planet, they should love Raoul
| Peck's Lumumba.
| To all those who have been contacting me for several months
| as to when and where they can see this film, Lumumba, at
| long last, will formally begin its U.S. national release
| with a premier performance on Wednesday, June 27th, 2001 at
| the Film Forum, 209 West Houston Street, just west of 6th
| Avenue in lower Manhattan in New York. A celebration will
| follow the premier nearby at S.O.B.'s, at 204 Varick Street,
| featuring an exclusive African cultural program with La
| Troupe Makandal, New York's number 1 Haitian performing
| group, a surprise celebrity guest host, special invited
| guest of honor Lumumba filmmaker Raoul Peck, and more.
| --
| Further information on how to purchase tickets to the film
| screening and opening night party can be obtained by calling
| (212) 631-1189 or emailing <info@imagenationfilmfestival.org>. 
| Those interested can also visit the following website:
| <http://www.imagenationfilmfestival.org>.
| --
| Elombe Brath is chairman of the Patrice Lumumba Coalition,
| and an African internationalist elder and veteran of over 40
| years of activism in the Pan-African nationalist movement.
| Mr. Brath also worked as a graphic artist and consultant on
| African Affairs for "Like It Is", the WABC-TV public affairs
| program produced and hosted by Gil Noble, for 17 years, and
| produces and hosts his own public affairs radio program,
| Afrikaleidoscope, on WBAI 99.5 FM, heard weekly on Thursdays
| between 9 pm and 10 pm.
| Copyright (c) 2001 Elombe Brath. All Rights Reserved.