Movie Review: Heart of Africa
In 1899, Joseph Conrad published his serialized novel, “Heart of Darkness.” It is the tale of British entrepreneurs who go up the Congo River seeking to expand the ivory trade. Instead, they find disillusionment and death.
In this new film, written by my friend Margaret Blair Young* and produced by her husband, Bruce, we get a Latter-day Saint recreation of Conrad’s novel. In this film, entirely filmed in DR Congo, we find a young Congolese man, Gabriel, who runs away from the destiny thrust upon him by his foster father, a tribal leader who seeks revenge from Belgians, Rwandans, whites, and others who enslaved and brutalized their people.
In running from his home, Gabriel encounters missionaries, who take him to their home and feed him. Soon, he is baptized, though the conflict of his former life and the life he is entering in cause giant conflicts in his life. The mission president, who knew him as a child, sends him on a six month mission back to his village to build an orphanage.
Conflicts occur, as he immediately hates his white American missionary companion, and his foster father and older brother come on the scene to stir the pot. We get a real feel for modern African tribal tensions that still exist because of colonialism and tribal feuding over the past centuries. At the same time, we see how distrust and conflict can turn to forgiveness, understanding and love.
In Conrad’s novel, in Africa we only find darkness and despair. Heart of Africa shows us the continued struggles and hardships seen by Conrad a century ago, but offers us another ending, one of love, hope, healing and redemption.
The film has received excellent reviews at the festivals where it has been presented, and in the theaters over the few weeks it was seen, until the Corona virus pandemic shut theaters down.
Fortunately, Living Scriptures quickly offered to provide its streaming service for us to see this marvelous film in the comfort and safety of our quarantined homes. 24 hour rental is only $5, and you can own it for $16.
It is mostly in French and Congolese, still it was a marvelous film, even reading the English subtitles.
* I met Margaret, along with Darius Gray, at the 2004 FairMormon Conference, when my dear friend, Renee Olson (who informally adopted me as her brother), introduced us. Young and Gray are the co-authors of a series of historical novels on early LDS black members: Standing on the Promises