During the past two weeks, I was touring with my latest film The Congo Tribunal, which documents a civil society tribunal that we set up in the part of the eastern Congo afflicted by civil war. The tribunal put the local government, the United Nations, the World Bank and the large mining multinationals on trial. My tour took me to Germany, Switzerland and Belgium (unfortunately we have no Austrian screening licence, though one might be granted at some point).
Every evening, I watched my film about the Congolese mining industry once more. It is probably the same for most directors: the interesting part begins after the film is over, when the debate with the audience gets going. When in July we showed the film in the eastern Congo, in towns hit by the civil war and in mining villages, the screening was scarcely over before the audience started handing over evidence in the form of photos and written witness statements to our investigating judges and to myself. They reported that the economic crimes and massacres presented in our film continued to happen or they referred to completely different cases of which we should take note. Since 1996, the civil war, which is in truth a war over the coltan and gold in the eastern Congolese earth, has left seven million people dead following over 1,000 cases of mass expulsion, mass rape or simply – intentional and planned – deprivation.
When we screened our film in Hamburg, Berlin, Brussels, Zurich or Geneva, something similar happened: the audience came to us, they told of comparable cases, almost every Swiss, Belgian, German firm is implicated in a crime of the same or greater magnitude as the two companies that we cover in the film. Names were mentioned such as Monsanto, Glencore, VW, KiK. The longer one listened, the stronger the feeling became that we are all living in a nightmare, except that we are fully conscious.