King Leopold's Ghost

Ben Affleck (Argo, The Town) is getting behind the camera for a new movie called King Leopold’s Ghost, a true story of rebellion against genocide in the Congo in the late 1800s. Affleck will produce alongside Martin Scorsese, and the script will be written by Apocalypto screenwriter Farhad Safinia. Get the details below.

Deadline says Affleck has added this film to his plate of upcoming directorial efforts, but there’s no word on which movie he’ll actually direct next. (He’s currently developing Ghost Army and a film about the Monopoly game scandal, too.)

King Leopold’s Ghost is based on Adam Hochschild’s book of the same name, and this excerpt from the book’s synopsis provides an overview of what to expect:

In the 1880s, as the European powers were carving up Africa, King Leopold II of Belgium seized for himself the vast and mostly unexplored territory surrounding the Congo River. Carrying out a genocidal plundering of the Congo, he looted its rubber, brutalized its people, and ultimately slashed its population by ten million—all the while shrewdly cultivating his reputation as a great humanitarian. Heroic efforts to expose these crimes eventually led to the first great human rights movement of the twentieth century, in which everyone from Mark Twain to the Archbishop of Canterbury participated. King Leopold’s Ghost is the haunting account of a megalomaniac of monstrous proportions, a man as cunning, charming, and cruel as any of the great Shakespearean villains. It is also the deeply moving portrait of those who fought Leopold: a brave handful of missionaries, travelers, and young idealists who went to Africa for work or adventure and unexpectedly found themselves witnesses to a holocaust.

Leopold became the richest man in the world through these brutal tactics, all while operating under the guise of spreading Christianity to the African continent. His hypocrisy was ultimately exposed to the world, and served as the inspiration for Joseph Conrad’s novel Heart of Darkness (which in turn inspired Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now).

If, like me, you’re wondering why Ben Affleck of all people is interested in telling this particular story, Deadline provides some interesting context. Evidently Affleck has been passionate about this region for a long time, and he’s actually done something about it, too: he founded the Eastern Congo Initiative, “an advocacy and grant-making initiative focused on working with and for the people of eastern Congo to spur economic and social development and increase the quantity of public and private funding to support those goals.” He’s been working on this movie for “several years,” at one point even thinking it would be a limited series before eventually working it out as a movie.

I’d never heard of these atrocities before – ten million people died! – and I suspect I’m not alone in that. Here’s hoping this project informs and inspires others when it eventually makes its way onto the big screen.

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