Congolese men holding the severed hands of those who failed to make the daily rubber sap quota (1904)
Congolese men holding the severed hands of those who failed to make the daily rubber sap quota (1904)

An interesting and unexpected pairing, and a curious subject that they’ve chosen to tackle together…

Martin Scorsese has teamed up with Harry Belafonte to produce a mini-series on King Leopold II – the Belgian king from 1865 to 1909, whom we can also call the Butcher of Congo, responsible for the deaths and mutilations of millions of Congolese during his reign, and who became incredibly rich from the country’s natural resources – specifically plantations of rubber, a commodity that was in very high demand during that period as Europe was amidst an industrial revolution.

The riches enjoyed by modern day Belgium owe very much to the people and land of the Congo – a country that, today, continues to be soaked in strife, in the form of conflict for control of the vast mineral wealth that exists there.

This is the Congo of Pattrice Lumumba, of Mobutu Sese Seko, Laurent Kabila, his son and current sitting president Joseph Kabila, and before them all, of Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness.”

During his reign over Congo, The Butcher had some 10 million Congolese mutilated and massacred, cutting off their hands and genitals, having them beaten to death, starving them, burning villages and more.

And he did all this without even setting foot in the Congo.

How Scorsese and Belafonte intend to bring this horrid period in our history to life on screen is currently underwraps, although Scorsese and Belafonte are currently gathering source material and interviewing writers, with Scorsese planning to direct the first episode, and then secure top names to direct the rest.

That’s all the information available on the project at this time, which stemmed from Belafonte’s own awareness and interest in bringing the sordid tale to the screen.

So now we wait…

I should note that you can find a documentary made on this very subject, released by ArtMattan, titled “Congo: White King, Red Rubber, Black Death” – an eye-opening documentary on the greed, shockingly brutal colonialism, and genocide brought on by King Leopold II.

It’s not a film that’s widely available, so visit the ArtMattan website to learn more about the doc, and purchase it here.

Watch a clip of it below: