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The Congo Tribunal

Theatrical Release GER: 16.11.17 / CH: 23.11.17

"The most ambitious piece of political theatre ever staged"

The Guardian

The unveiled portrait of one of the biggest and bloodiest economic wars in the history of mankind.

Cinema documentary, Germany/Switzerland, 2017, 100 min.
A Fruitmarket and Langfilm production in coproduction with IIPM - International Institute of Political Murder, SRF Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen - SRG SSR / ZDF in collaboration with ARTE. Distributed by Real Fiction and Vinca Film.

In more than 20 years, the Congo War has claimed six million lives. The population suffers from impunity, the war-crimes have never been legally prosecuted. Due to the high occurrence of „high-tech raw materials“, many consider the conflict as one of the most decisive economic battles for the share in the era of globalization.

For „The Congo Tribunal“, Milo Rau gathered victims, perpetrators, witnesses and analysts of the Congo War for a unique civil tribunal in Eastern Congo. For the first time in the history of this war, 3 exemplary cases were heard, exposing an unveiled portrait of one of the biggest and bloodiest economic wars in the history of mankind.

Director's Statement Milo Rau

„The Congo Tribunal“ almost instantly begins with the images of a massacre which we happened to witness during a research shoot: The Mutarule-Massacre, close to the city of Bukavu took place in June 2014 and left over 30 women and children dead. It is probably the most cruel and most incomprehensible recordings I have ever made. After all, no one can explain why this massacre happened. The Old Testament reality of the Eastern Congolese catastrophe, consisting of thousands of massacres and expulsions that have taken over 6 million lives until today, can´t explain why. This is the reason why we established „The Congo Tribunal“: To understand why Mutarule happened, why all the other massacres and expulsions happened and still continue to happen. How are we ourselves involved in it- beyond witnessing.

If I had to choose between only one of my theatre or film projects, it would be "The Congo Tribunal". The film gathered all my interests and formats which have driven me over the last 15 years. It is a theatrical tribunal, but everything is real: miners, rebels, the cynical minister and the lawyer from Den Hague – they play nothing other than themselves. At the same time, the film creates something that is actually not documentarily realizable: A portrait of the world economy, a very concrete analysis of all causes and backgrounds that lead to a civil war in Congo that did not stop for more than 20 years. And who is interested in the fact, that this situation remains.

"The conflict demonstrates the human costs of global commodity trading."

It may sound cynical: the infernal situation in the region around the two eastern Congolese cities of Bukavu and Goma is perhaps a one-off constellation from the viewpoint of a political theatre- and filmmaker. In no other region, the conflict over gold and coltan is more exemplary for the human costs of global trade with raw materials. Multinationals, obtaining coltan concessions through bribery, banish the population. And those who won´t leave by themselves are being pushed out of the market by european or american monopoly laws. However, under the supervision of the UN peacekeepers, the resulting conflicts are being suppressed or even provoked by the Congolese army.

In all phases of production, the Congo Tribunal was a monstrous project. To this day, I do not quite understand why the Minister of Mines (who was dismissed later) and the Minister of Interior (also dismissed), who where more or less directly responsible for the Mutarule Massacre, attended the Tribunal. How we managed to pull through in the heart of the civil war zone — in front of 1000 people, recorded by 7 cameras at a place, where there is hardly enough electricity for a few light bulbs. Eventually, not only the Congolese government and its victims, but also the army, rebel groups, the UN, NGOs, the representatives of the World Bank and thus all western industrial nations were facing the barriers of our theatrical tribunal.

"Justice is possible, here and now. We just have to establish it.“

With the "Congo Tribunal", we are trying to look behind the facade of this massive "factory" of world trade: a factory that includes the massacre in Mutarule and the shafts of the Coltan-mines as well as the UN-headquarters or the European Parliament. Where well-intentioned laws for the regulation of raw materials are currently being discussed which would have disastrous consequences for Congolese miners.

And with all the horrors shown in the film, it is important to me not to lose sight of hope. If the "Congo Tribunal" has proved one thing, it is that the truth can be found, no matter how complicated the connections are. And justice is possible, here and now. We just have to establish it.