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On June 30 1960, thirty-six year-old Patrice Lumumba (Eriq Ebouaney) became the first Prime Minister of Congo. He lasted two months before he was executed. Lumumba's brutally slain corpse narrates the story of the beer salesman who rose through the ranks of the Congolese National Movement in the 1950s to lead the former Belgian colony as a newly independent nation.

Review by Louise Keller:
Powerful and moving on every level, Lumumba is an important story that finally has been told. While my interest may be more personal and profound than many – I lived in Elisabethville, the capital of Katanga before and after Independence Day (June 30, 1960), – the film is a gripping portrait of a man of honour and courage, who did not compromise his ideals. I was an impressionable child acquiring indelible memories of an idyllic lifestyle and the contrasting terror and horrors of civil war. I found many of the early scenes in the film, which painted only too well the lifestyle, mood and atmosphere of life in the Belgian Congo, almost too real to bear. Small things like the authenticity of the radios, the clothes, the army uniforms, the cars, (Sabena) airline, the Belgian french and the music. Raoul Peck's insightful film plucks the salient points of events political and personal, and integrates them into a thoroughly compelling, if disturbing political drama. The issues of discrimination, conflict, power struggles and revolts are canvassed as a matter of fact. Even the scenes that give glimpses of Lumumba, the man, in his personal life, are understated. One such scene finds him at his wife's bedside, when their fatally ill newly born daughter was sent to Switzerland for treatment. There is a moment filled with tenderness, sadness and total helplessness. The events concerning Tshombe, Kasavubu and Mobutu reveal themselves to be some of the most extraordinary in political history, and the shocking conclusion to this story is truly unforgettable. For those interested in politics, history or humanity, don't miss this film. It offers a great insight into not only an extraordinary man, but into a whole nation and events that marked this unique continent forever.

Review by Richard Kuipers:
Lumumba is about the African state of Congo and makes us think about the very many lands to have suffered the ruinous effect of colonisation. A prologue informs us that in 1885 Africa was divided up by Europeans at a conference in Berlin in 1885 and King Leopold II of Belgium's booty included the Congo. The effects of this international swap-meet are still being felt today in many of the countries whose political process, even after 'liberation', has been dictated by foreign economic interests. Don't imagine for a moment George Bush and his western allies are rushing to Afghanistan's aid because they wish to promote the democratic ideals their societies are so gloriously founded on. Greasing of the Military Industrial Complex's machinery and the strategic positioning of foreign investment in an otherwise unfriendly region is the key. So what do all these concerns have to do with a man who was the democratically elected President of a former Belgian colony way back in 1960? Everything, because the underlying strategy of replacing popular leaders with puppets backed by the US remains the same. In Lumumba and the Congo's case it was the CIA, Belgian interests and foreign-backed local dissidents who conspired to unseat and assassinate him. Examine almost any former colony and the basic story will be the same. As a movie, Lumumba is a finely crafted and passionately told biography. It was directed by Raoul Peck, whose background as a former Cultural Minister in Haiti qualifies him in the arena of brutal regimes propped up by outside interests while the local population starves and murders itself. Personal details of Lumumba's life are wisely kept to a minimum and we learn plenty about this terrible chapter in African politics as a result. This is stirring stuff. It should make you angry and inspire you to look very carefully at what's really at stake behind the convenient flags of 'democracy', 'freedom' and 'self-determination' flown by western powers (including Australia) in third-world countries right now.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
History so often saddens, and never more deeply than when we see it re-enacted on film in the hands of committed filmmakers like Peck. Inevitably, the sadness comes from a realisation that we (humankind) can’t seem to learn the lessons of history and forever repeat the atrocities that are committed in ignorance and fear, self mutilating the body politic while hacking the body of our own peoples. What nobility humanity retains is diminished with it all, and nothing changes from one century to the next, from one country to the next, from one ethnic group to the next, from one religion to the next. Peck says he is driven by the need to know, and as the maker of a documentary in 1990 on Patrice Lumumba, he obviously went to some lengths to know – and to pass on that knowledge. Of course, what he means is to remember – and to learn. But as I say, there’s no evidence we do. Gripping, moving and complex, Lumumba is a taut drama that effectively time warps us back to the Congo of 1960. It tells Lumumba’s story, and I daresay every key participant could tell a slightly varied version, in which the complexities of the situation altered quite dramatically the perception pursued in the films. But that’s ever so. In Peck’s editorial point of view, Lumumba was a hero of the independence movement which all takes on a new context in this new century of enlightened political postures. (Excuse the scepticism.) I am a sucker for films like this, and wish there had been filmmakers throughout the ages to make sure we knew and remembered – however futile it may seem.

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CAST: Eriq Ebouaney, Alex Descas, Théophile Sowié, Maka Kotto, Mariam Kaba

DIRECTOR: Raoul Peck,

PRODUCER: Jacques Bidou

SCRIPT: Pascal Bonitzer, Raoul Peck


EDITOR: Jacques Comets

MUSIC: Jean-Claude Petit


RUNNING TIME: 115 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 14, 2002 (Sydney/Melbourne)

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