Patrice Lumumba played a decisive role in the liberation of the Congo from the colonial yoke. Shortly afterwards, he was betrayed by those close to him, overthrown and summarily executed in Katanga on the January 17, 1961. Even though we know about many of those who orchestrated his death, there remain many unanswered questions. Where exactly did this massacre take place? Who was present? On whose orders? Who is to blame? Sven Augustijnen takes these shady questions that haunt Belgium as much as the Congo as the starting point of his enquiries: using facts, their contemporary echoes and what has been brushed over as “historical fact”. His guide is an elusive character of noble birth – Jacques Brassinne de la Buissière, who was working in the Congo as a high-ranking civil servant at the time. Author of a biography of Lumumba, this man spent many years carrying out research into the history of this period. The film-maker goes with him to meet witnesses and protagonists. Between factual truth, the strength of conviction in the words of some and the possible duplicity of others, between Belgium and the Congo, the camera opens up a wide angle. It scrutinizes the surroundings, observes the gestures and glances, diving into the uncertain layers of truth, revealing the minutiae of the witness accounts. Paced with extracts from Jean-Sebastian Bach’s Passion, powerful elegiac breaths of fresh air that recall the Congolese martyr. Spectres invents new form of investigation which assumes the right to question not just History – both its living players and phantom witnesses – but also how it is recorded, restoring to all both their bodies and their terrible night to the point of opacity.
Doc Alliance is a creative partnership of 7 key European documentary film festivals. Our aim is to advance the documentary genre, support its diversity and promote quality creative documentary films.