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A Stirring 'Lumumba'
By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 13, 2001


    'Lumumba' "Lumumba" tells the story of Congo's emergence as an independent nation.
(Zeitgeist Films)
It's refreshing to watch a film, in this case directed and cowritten by Raoul Peck, that centers so squarely on African affairs, and saves all its dramatic high points for black actors. (It's a French-Belgian-German production.) Peck, who grew up in Congo and also made the documentary, "Lumumba – Death of a Prophet," has boiled down the complex story of Congo's painful first steps as an independent nation into a taut, well-drawn story.

And there's a powerful performance from Eriq Ebouaney as Patrice Emery Lumumba, the self-taught visionary leader who assumed the leadership of Congo on June 30, 1960. He was 36 at the time and destined for only a few more months of power – and life. Congo, another post-colonial country full of bitterly divided tribes, was a powder keg, particularly in the Katanga region in the south. Even though Lumumba won by democratic vote, his enemies were strong, with such players as the politically unstable president Joseph Kasa Vubu (Maka Kotto), and Joseph Mobuto (Alex Descas), a reporter-turned soldier who was waiting to take over. Peck, who co-wrote with Pascal Bonitez, runs us at a brisk pace through the highlights of Lumumba's short-lived career, including the predictable, behind-the-scenes machinations of various Western powers. Although the movie suffers from a lot of fast-moving exposition, mostly mentioned in passing by the performers, the movie's visually stirring. And the locations, in Zimbabwe and Mozambique, imbue the story with eerie authenticity.

LUMUMBA (NR)In French and English with English subtitles. Contains schoolyard-grade vulgarity and naughty sexual innuendo. At Visions Cinema Bistro Lounge.


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