All throughout history, monarchies from all over Europe have been known to exert their power and reign over African countries as well as other southern countries. In most cases, such reign has resulted to the abuse and mistreatment of the native people of the said countries. The film produced and directed by Peter Bates, “White King, Red Rubber, Black Death,” features a story that follows the said trend. In particular, the film is a showcase of how Leopold II, a Belgian monarch exerted his power brought down terror upon the people of Congo.
The story documents King Leopold II’s reign over Congo and the wrath that he brought with him. Between 1885 and1908, Leopold II turned Congo into a labor camp and brutalized the people of Congo, all for the sake of rubber. Congo was rich in rubber, and during that time, rubber was highly in demand as the production of bicycles and cars was increasing rapidly. Every individual in Congo was subjected to Leopold’s abuse. Men who could not produce the required amount of rubber saw their families being held as hostages and starved to death. Even children were not spared from his wrath.
Children worked as laborers and late deliveries meant that their hands would be cut off. During the reign of Leopold, it was said that over 10 million people in Congo were killed. It was only through the efforts of a courageous British journalist that such human rights abuses were brought to attention and was finally ended. In a way, the film serves as one of those films that help people understand better the ins and outs of European relations with Africa. Historical accounts often times leave out such events. Such painful truths are often forgotten, ignored or simply hidden.
Bates’ story brings an example of such painful truths to the limelight and orients its viewers to the plight of the people of Congo in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Bates’ depiction of the story shows his passion for human rights and the abuses committed against such rights. He reveals a reality that has long been ignored. He succeeded in making viewers see that Leopold II is accountable for his actions that led to the multitude of deaths in Congo. More importantly, Bates’ production is one which will leave viewers who are unaware of such abuses in utter shock and pity for the Congolese who suffered in the hand of an oppressor.
It is informative and at the same time, it touches the hearts of its viewers and makes people realize the value of their human rights and the protection of such rights. If there is one thing wrong with the manner by which the story was portrayed. It was that it was full of rage. There were certain scenes that were too dramatic that may have made the story a bit too sensationalized. Even the narration was too dramatic. Although such style was utilized to make people realize better the extent of the abuse, it may have dampened the integrity of the film. Understandably, there is indeed bias in Bates’ production.
Indeed, Bates’ goal is to show the world the plight of the Congolese under Leopold’s rule. However, the film could have been better if a less passionate portrayal was used. The sensationalism in the film was unnecessary for the story is enough for viewers to see the horror in Congo during the said time. The story speaks for itself and there was no need to add more drama to it. In general, the film was a true eye-opener. It would certainly touch the hearts of people who watch it. Finally, it teaches people to value and protect the human rights of every individual more.