Lumumba (film)

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Directed byRaoul Peck
Written byPascal Bonitzer
Dan Edelstein
Raoul Peck
Produced byJacques Bidou
Raoul Peck
StarringEriq Ebouaney
CinematographyBernard Lutic
Edited byJacques Comets
Music byJean-Claude Petit
Release date
  • 14 May 2000 (2000-05-14) (Cannes)
Running time
115 minutes

Lumumba is a 2000 biographical film directed by Raoul Peck. A co-production of France, Germany, Belgium, and Haiti filmed in French, the film depicts the rise and fall of Patrice Lumumba, and is set in the months before and after Congo-Léopoldville achieved independence from Belgium in June 1960. Political unrest in the Democratic Republic of the Congo at the time of filming caused the film to be shot in Zimbabwe and Beira, Mozambique. The film received positive reviews from critics, and won awards from the American Black Film Festival, the Political Film Society, and the Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou.


The film begins with a montage of Lumumba and his compatriots Joseph Okito and Maurice Mpolo being driven to their executions, cutting to their bodies being exhumed, dismembered, and burned on the orders of Mobutu Sese Seko. Lumumba narrates his final letter to his wife in these introductory scenes. The film then jumps back to the late 1950s as Lumumba has a debate with Moïse Tshombe and Godefroid Munongo, rival politicians from the ethnically-nationalist pro-Western CONAKAT party. Lumumba expresses his Pan-Africanist ideals, expressed at a recent summit in Accra, Ghana, which infuriate Tshombe and Munongo.

Following the debate, the film cuts back to Lumumba receiving his job as a beer salesman, hired because of his public speaking ability by the Polar beer company, which the locals distrust. While using his beer sales to promote his political ideas in Leopoldville, Lumumba meets Joseph Mobutu for the first time. After hearing that Baudouin of Belgium has become more favorable to independence, the street meeting is broken up by Force Publique soldiers, who arrest and imprison Lumumba where he is beaten by the Belgian guards before being freed and sent to Brussels to negotiate Congolese independence.

While in Brussels, Lumumba first meets Joseph Kasa-Vubu (spelled Kasavubu in the film), a fellow independence-minded politician from the rival ABAKO party, who wishes to better compromise with the Belgians, who insist that their colonial rule is all that prevents tribal warfare from occurring. Upset that the Belgians do not recognize the legitimacy of the Mouvement National Congolais given their success in the elections, Lumumba backs Kasavubu for president, who in turn appoints Lumumba as prime minister. On the night of the coalition's formation, Lumumba is threatened by Tshombe and Munongo, who were not given any leadership positions in the new government. At the formal recognition of independence from the king of Belgium, Lumumba's speech strikes a more combative tone than Kasavubu's, highlighting the oppression that the Congolese suffered under Belgian rule.

Back in the Congo, the Congo Crisis has begun with an assault on a member of Lumumba's cabinet. The cabinet then debates the removal of Émile Janssens, who does not support African officers. Mobuto supersedes Mpolo as an appointee to colonel. Then, mutinied soldiers assault a member of Lumumba's cabinet and storm the government house, demanding the removal of their white superiors. Lumumba implores them to return to their barracks, and the group's leader informs Lumumba that they have taken white officers and their families hostage, and will kill them if Lumumba does not follow through on his promise to address them. The rebelling soldiers are chided by Janssens, who reaffirms his belief in a white-controlled military. Following a protest by soldiers' wives, he is called before Lumumba, who demands Janssens' resignation. Following the rape and assault by soldiers of a Flemish couple, the Belgian ambassador visits Lumumba and makes veiled threats to involve the United Nations and NATO, which infuriates Lumumba, insisting that the Belgians have caused the problem by retaining a segregated military. Lumumba dismisses Janssens and charges the ambassador with removing him from the country.

On a visit to Katanga, Munongo refuses to allow the government's plane to land, signaling the secession of Katanga into the State of Katanga. After a run-in with Belgian troops at Ndjili, Lumumba drives to crush the secessionist Katangans. Evidence surfaces that Mobutu's forces massacred large numbers of civilians while fighting the Kanangan rebels, and Lumumba dismisses a recalcitrant Mobutu, upset that he will have to answer for Mobutu's atrocities. He brushes off support from the United States, and meets with an exhausted Kasavubu, where he reveals that he feels that the Soviet Union is the only country that he can rely on for support. At a military camp, the American ambassador pledges his support to Mobutu, provided that he help in eliminating Lumumba. Kasavubu dismisses Lumumba for both his alleged communist sympathies and his perceived role in the South Kasai massacres, creating political deadlock due to Lumumba's widespread popularity. After condemning Kasavubu's criticism and brushing off accusations of being a communist, Lumumba returns home where he learns that his infant daughter must be sent to Switzerland, since she is gravely ill. Mobutu arrives and tells Lumumba that Kasavubu wanted him arrested, but has elected to place him under house arrest instead, leading Lumumba to suspect that Mobutu is working with a foreign power.

Later, Mobutu announces that the army has seized power, and claims to have arrested both Lumumba and Kasavubu. While plotting his escape to Stanleyville, Lumumba learns that his infant daughter has died in Switzerland. While Lumumba and his partisans cross the river towards Stanleyville, soldiers arrive and accost Lumumba's family and he returns to face them, where he is arrested. At Mobutu's military encampment, he and others vote to kill Lumumba, with Kasavubu reluctantly casting his vote. He, Mpolo, and Okito, are taken to Katanga where they are brutally beaten, with Munongo joining in. The ending of the film intersperses Mobutu, now Mobutu Sese Seko, publicly remembering Lumumba, with shots of the men's executions in a dark woods.



The film premiered at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival on 14 May 2000, and it was shown at various film festivals as well as having commercial releases in Belgium, France, Switzerland, the United States and Canada. The film grossed $684,000 in the US.[1] It also aired on HBO.[2]

Disputed scene[edit]

The film generated some controversy in 2002, when Frank Carlucci, a former American government official and protege of Donald Rumsfeld, persuaded HBO to delete a reference to him during the airing of the film. The scene in question involves a group of Belgian and Congolese officials deciding whether to kill Lumumba. Carlucci is asked for input, and he mumbles that the US government does not involve itself in the internal affairs of other countries. At the time, Carlucci was the second secretary of the US Embassy in Congo. He denies playing any role in the death of Lumumba: "The scene is tendentious, false, libelous; it never happened and it is a cheap shot."[citation needed]

According to one source, the scene was deleted from the version of the film that aired on HBO.[3] Another source says that the scene was not deleted, but the word "Carlucci" was bleeped in the dialogue, with the name masked in the credits.[4] The scene remains on the DVD version of the film.


The film received mostly positive reviews from critics, with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 81% and a Metacritic score of 78, which indicates "generally favorable reviews."[5] The critics' consensus of Rotten Tomatoes read "Ebouaney's fiery performance makes Lumumba compelling."[6]

Reviewing the film in The Guardian, Alex Tunzelmann noted Peck's "commendable effort to get as close to the truth as possible, incorporating many details from historical investigator Ludo de Witte's The Assassination of Lumumba.[7] Tunzelmann suggested the film might move too quickly through the Congo and Lumumba's history for viewers not already familiar with it to keep up, but said the "last part of the film, from Lumumba's falling out with Mobutu to his death, is gripping to watch, building to a superb last scene intercutting Lumumba's fate with Mobutu's attempt to rewrite history." Writing for The New York Times, Elvis Mitchell read the film's pace as "refus[ing] to lay out Lumumba's life in traditional, corny terms by presenting a lengthy and unwieldy history lesson and then groveling for audience sympathy. Instead Lumumba vaults through his radicalization and the track that led this former civil servant and beer salesman to leave his angry stamp on the world."[8]


Award Category Recipient Result Ref
Acapulco Black Film Festival Best Feature Film Raoul Peck Won [9]
Black Reel Awards Theatrical: Best Independent Actor Eriq Ebouaney Nominated [9]
Black Reel Awards Theatrical: Best Independent Film Raoul Peck Nominated [9]
Cannes Film Festival C.I.C.A.E. Award Raoul Peck Nominated [9]
Independent Spirit Awards Best Foreign Film Raoul Peck Nominated [9]
Milan African Film Festival Best Film Raoul Peck Nominated [9]
Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou Best Feature Length Film Raoul Peck Won [9]
Political Film Society Political Film Society Award for Peace Raoul Peck Won [9]
Political Film Society Political Film Society Award for Democracy Raoul Peck Nominated [9]
Political Film Society Political Film Society Award for Human Rights Raoul Peck Nominated [9]
Political Film Society Political Film Society Award for Exposé Raoul Peck Nominated [9]


  1. ^ Lumumba (2000) - Box office / business
  2. ^ HBO Films
  3. ^ Shorrock, Tim (14 March 2002). "Company Man". The Nation. Retrieved 26 August 2006.
  4. ^ Laurier, Joanne (15 March 2002). ""Carlucci" bleeped from HBO version of Lumumba". World Socialist Web Site. Retrieved 26 August 2006.
  5. ^ Lumumba, retrieved 12 March 2021
  6. ^ Lumumba (2000), retrieved 12 March 2021
  7. ^ Tunzelmann, Alex von (14 June 2012). "Lumumba fights its corner as a corrective to imperialism". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 February 2017.
  8. ^ Mitchell, Elvis (27 June 2001). "FILM REVIEW; An African Leader's Brief Blaze of Glory". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 February 2017.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Lumumba - IMDb, retrieved 12 March 2021

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