When elephants fight, the grass suffers - old Congolese proverb
The huge Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire, and before that the Belgian Congo) is hugely rich in mineral resources (including coltan, manganese and gold) but none of this wealth filters down to it's population, most of whom are very poor. The country is also riven with conflict, fuelled in large part by those very minerals.
When Elephants Fight explores the effect that conflict minerals have on the social and political life of DR Congo. We meet women who have been repeatedly raped by rebel soldiers, men who just want an honest job, but who are pushed by poverty into taking up arms, young children singing anti-war songs, miners who work in danferous and unhealthy conditions to dig the minerals from the earth. There are dead bodies everywhere.
This situation is made far worse by the obscure international financing that lies behind the minerals. The minerals are smuggled across the border to Rwanda where they are branded as Rwandan produced minerals and sold on the international market. In addition, the mining rights have been sold to offshore companies who then make unbelievably large profits by selling these rights to huge global conglomerations (As is often the case with international finance, I just didn't understand how this could happen, while DR Congo looks on at all its wealth being drained away) So where once the state mining company guaranteed its workers three meals a day and a good house, now they have nothing.
This is a very difficult film to watch, the story is harrowing and it's full of grim images of dead, mutilated bodies and partly filmed with a shaky handheld camera it can make the viewer feel literally a little queasy. But it's one of those films that needs to be seen and ask yourself how much you need that new mobile phone? that new i-pad? At the very least start asking about wehter your electronic equipment contains conflict minerals.
When Elephants Fight got it's world premiere at 6.10pm, Thursday 18 June at the Filmhouse. Showing as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival in association with Take One Action film festival.
Disclaimer, I have a press pass for the Edinburgh International Film Festival and attended a free press screening of this film.
If you are interested in the issues raised by this film you may also be interested in
Blood in the Mobile (which I review here) which follows the international links between conflict minerals and mobile phones.
Virunga (which I review here) which tells the story of the efforts to protect Virunga national park and it's mountain gorillas against oil prospectors and armed forces.
You can read my other reviews of films from this years film festival by following the links below:
Iron Ministry - a cinematic journey through China by rail
Index Zero - dystopian SF set in a future Fortress Europe
30 Days Wild goes to the cinema - how the landscape backdrops two films set in very different countries (Sand Dollars and The Gulls)
It's an interesting point, but sometimes it is very very hard to live ethically. Yes, I do need a mobile phone. I needed this new little chromebook. Knowing this, companies will exploit us, and these countries, knowing that there isn't much in the way of choice.
Seen any filled with hope yet?
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