Oscar-Winning director Ben Affleck is set to direct King Leopold’s Ghost, a historical drama about how the Congo was plundered by King Leopold II, the king of Belgium in the 1800s. Apocalypto writer Farhad Safinia will write the script for the film which will be produced by Affleck and superhero movie aficionado Martin Scorsese.
Here’s the rather hefty plot breakdown from Deadline:
The film will be based on the Adam Hochschild book King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa. The film covers an atrocious piece of history that is every bit as bad as the subtitle infers. Set at a moment when European countries were racing to find ways to carve up the natural resources of Africa, Leopold became the world’s richest man with billions stashed in secret bank accounts by gaining private ownership of the Congo Free State, and inserted a mercenary army to cruelly plunder rubber and ivory. He forced the locals to harvest it. Those who refused were dismembered or worse, and the book estimates that as many as 8 million were killed in this ruthless pursuit.
This film is an account of the Congolese who defied Leopold II and fought back. Their heroic plight sparked a daring and unlikely alliance between a black American missionary, an English investigative journalist and an Irish spy that shone a light on the horrors and gave birth to the first human rights movement. Once photographs were made public, Leopold’s charade of spreading Christianity in the heart of darkness was exposed as a greedy ruse, and the king was assailed by the likes of Mark Twain, Booker T. Washington, Arthur Conan Doyle and Joseph Conrad, whose disgust with Leopold’s “civilizing mission” led to writing Heart of Darkness.
This sounds like it could be a punchy, epic big screen historical drama and I think Affleck has the chops to pull it off.
The Irish spy in question is Sir Roger Casement, a fascinating character who I oddly played in voiceover narration of his diaries in a museum exhibition.
Ben Affleck’s passion for the Congo runs deep – he founded the Eastern Congo Initiative in 2010. Here’s what they do:
Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI) is an advocacy and grant-making initiative wholly focused on working with and for the people of eastern Congo. We envision an eastern Congo vibrant with abundant opportunities for economic and social development, where a robust civil society can flourish. ECI believes that local, community-based approaches are essential to creating a sustainable and successful society in eastern Congo.
Keep reading Movies In Focus for more on King Leopold’s Ghost.