African countries on the verge of independence from colonial rule pose a unique problem for filmmakers: they have too much drama, too much action, too much politics for a mere movie to contain. Haitian filmmaker Raoul Peck lives up to the challenge with Lumumba, an unusually gripping film about the Congo's first prime minister, Patrice Lumumba. Peck cut his teeth on the subject matter in a 1992 documentary titled Lumumba: Death of a Prophet, and was inspired to complete this dramatic version of his life by Lude de Witte's investigative book The Assassination of Lumumba.
In the span of a few years, Lumumba went from being a postal worker and beer salesman to founding the Congolese National Movement and accelerating Belgium's departure from his home country. He rose the position of prime minister and served for less than a year before being assassinated—in what history suggests was a Belgian mission assisted by the United States under the auspices of anti-Communism. The Congolese situation was much more intricate than the Western strategists considered, and this excellently dramatized portrait of Lumumba touches upon the complexities with unflinching talent.
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