Che in Congo, a dream of liberation

Genre : Historical
Type : Documentary
Column : Cinema/tv
Year of production : 2017

A photographic and documentary film odyssey of Che Guevara's secret mission to Congo.

CHE IN CONGO - is a multimedia production following the footsteps of Che Guevara's secret mission to eastern Congo in 1965 as a unique approach to discovering the stories that connect DR Congo's past to the present and future. Over six years (2011-2017), the team behind the Che in Congo project (composed of Filmmaker/Director Ben Crowe, Photojournalist/Producer Jan-Joseph Stok and book designer Teun van der Heijden) made several trips to eastern DRC, Tanzania, Belgium and Cuba to explore the legacy of revolution and to speak with the inheritors of this tangled history - the combat veterans on all sides in the conflict and the ordinary people living in the mountains and villages where it took place.Following the footsteps of Che we used the same modes of transport (train, boat,motorbikes, trucks) to take us to remote villages and battle sites and to encounter different kinds of people whose voices are rarely heard. They share their personal reflections on contemporary prospects for peaceful development and on the issues at the heart of DR Congo's unresolved conflict.

A film by Ben CROWE & Jan-Joseph STOK

UK, 2017, Documentary, 1h06, Color

with Séraphine Mapendo (the narrator of the documentary)




The project has different outcomes :
* Documentary : Che in Congo - A Dream of Liberation (long form documentary of 66 minutes) (World premiere was at the Cape Town film festival in Oct ‘17, and the European premiere took place at Docfeed Documentary festival on 23 february 2018).
* Multimedia publications (Print and Online)
* a Photo book (in the making) Designed by Teun van der Heijden.
* a Creative non fiction book (in the making).

CHE IN CONGO - A DREAM OF LIBERATION is a unique approach to discovering the stories that connect DR Congo's past to the present and future. It is a long term multimedia project by award-winning photojournalist Jan-Joseph Stok and Palme D'Or nominated filmmaker Ben Crowe.

Through photography and film we explore this unrevealed chapter of Che Guevara's life and touch on many of the issues that the people of Congo today face in their daily lives and their dreams for a better future.

As foreign journalists, the project seeks to embrace a critical perspective on the role and meaning of Congo's representation by'foreign eyes' in the wider context of contemporary forms of neo-colonialism.

This year - 2018 - could be the first peaceful transfer of power in DRC since Independence from Belgium in 1960. But incumbent President Joseph Kabila has broken the constitutional two-term limit of the Presidency and repeatedly suspended planned elections. A precarious national dialogue has been established to manage a transition of power in December 2018 but it remains unclear if this is a tactic by the President to buy-time. There is increasing State repression and signs that some provinces are preparing for secession. Democracy activists across the country have grown into a peaceful movement for social and political reform but the pressure for armed revolt in eastern Congo is growing. A return to civil war and mass upheaval would have huge implications for the whole of east and central Africa.

PERSONAL STATEMENT (by Ben CROWE)
Despite the passing of 50 years since Che's mission to Congo to'liberate' the people from poverty and repression, the conditions that people live under have possibly got worse. Thirty years of rule by the West's friend in central Africa - the brutal dictator Joseph Mobutu - propped up by Euro-American finance, ruined generations of lives. The 1994 genocide in Rwanda and Kabila's ‘revolution' against Mobutu created multiple dynamics for an ongoing civil war in the east of the country where Che originally went to fight: cross-border forced migrations; power distribution at the local-national-regional levels; control of natural resource wealth; weapons proliferation; land ownership disputes; government corruption…All lines of connection between Che Guevara's mission to support the young Kabila against Mobutu, Kabila's eventual success and the state of eastern Congo today under the Presidency of Kabila junior.

CHE IN CONGO is a moment of integration: to explore the past, present and future of this troubled region and the long shadow of colonialism.


PERSONAL STATEMENT (by JAN-JOSEPH STOK)
For the last ten years I have worked almost every year in Eastern Congo. This project allows me to express in more depth and with more intimacy many of the issues I have touched on with my journalistic assignments. The African continent in general, has for a long time, been misrepresented. The image most of the people in the Western World have of the African continent, and at the same of Congo, is a very dramatic and stereotypical one: one of hunger, war and misery. Following in the footsteps of Che is a vehicle to tell the story of Congo in a different way. My aim is to let the encounter happen on the way, and to give the Congolese a voice to reflect on their own country in their own way. At the same time, the project can attract an audience fascinated by the icon of Che Guevara, to a country they may never have considered before. The project will raise questions about the condition of Congo now and over the years, and allow reflection on ways for a better future.

During one of my journeys in Congo, I met someone who was listening to an audiobook about Che Guevara in Congo. Intrigued by this episode of the life of Che Guevara, I read Che Guevara's diary in Congo "African Dream". Unknown to many, this diary was kept secret until the late 90's by Cuba because the mission was considered to be a failure by the Cuban regime. What surprised me is that a lot of things described by Che in his diary of the Congo mission from the 1960's are still valid today. Many people know the journey Che Guevara took in South America, the famous Motorcycle diaries and many read his Bolivian diary. But very few people are aware of the fact that Che also travelled to Congo to try to start the revolution there. Che in his Congo diary describes the period from April 1965 to December 1965. From my own experience, I could identify with some of his descriptions. Why a country like this has been exploited for decades, why the Congolese have been victims - and survivors - of different occupations and discoveries, which instead of being their blessing became a curse.


Production : Era Films

Distribution : Era Films

CONTACT
bencrowe@erafilms co uk

DOCUMENTARY BROADCAST RIGHTS AVAILABLE FOR SALE
Please get in touch for more information on distribution or to discuss film screenings, gallery exhibition, presentation Q&A

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