In his brief but incandescent heyday, Congolese revolutionary Patrice Lumumba (Eriq Ebouaney) was called "the Elvis Presley of Africa," though Malcolm X is the more apt comparison. The charismatic Lumumba was unyieldingly dedicated to helping his country forge a post-colonial identity independent of both divisive tribal rivalries and European influence, and in 1960 became his country's first independently elected prime minister. In less than a year he was brutally assassinated, his body dismembered and burned as though to remove every trace of him. His death paved the way for dictator Mobuto Sese Seko (Alex Descas), who ruled until he himself was deposed in 1997 by one-time Lumuba supporter Laurent Kabila, who was in turn murdered in 2001. Haitian filmmaker Raoul Peck, whose father taught in the Congo in the early '60s, first examined Lumumba's legacy in his 1991 documentary LUMUMBA: DEATH OF A PROPHET. Inspired by recent revelations about Lumumba's death, this film dramatizes his life and times and posits an anti-Lumumba conspiracy that united the CIA (acting on behalf of American business interests), disgruntled Belgian authorities and power-hungry local leaders in the Congo's resource-rich Katanga region. Born in 1925, Lumumba moved to the then-Belgian Congo's capital, Leopoldville (now Kinshasa), as a young man and worked for the postal service. He was fired on (presumably trumped-up) charges of embezzlement, and in 1958 founded the Mouvement National Congolais party, using his new job as a traveling salesman for a Belgian beer company to rally grassroots support. In 1959, Belgium announced a plan to give the Congo its freedom over the course of five years; Congolese nationalists saw a plot to rig elections and guarantee long-term political loyalty to Belgium. In 1960, MNC candidates swept the elections, and Prime Minister Lumumba and the more moderate President Joseph Kasa Vubu (Maka Kotto) were charged with governing a country that was descending into chaos. Katanga seceded under the leadership of Lumuba's longtime rival Moise Tshombe (Pascal Nzonzi), Belgian troops were sent in to "help" maintain order, the UN refused to intervene and Lumumba appealed to the Soviet Union for aid, panicking anti-communists in Europe and the U.S. Kasa Vubu dismissed Lumumba, and he was quickly betrayed and murdered. Driven by a fiery, fiercely controlled performance from Ebouaney, Peck's film which has been compared to Oliver Stone's JFK (1991) for its revisionist take on an assassination that became a nation's defining moment is utterly enthralling even for viewers unfamiliar with the Congo's complicated political history.
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- Released: 2000
- Rating: NR
- Review: In his brief but incandescent heyday, Congolese revolutionary Patrice Lumumba (Eriq Ebouaney) was called "the Elvis Presley of Africa," though Malcolm X is the more apt comparison. The charismatic Lumumba was unyieldingly dedicated to helping his country f… (more)