Ben Affleck has unveiled his next directorial project, and it’s a fact-based drama titled KING LEOPOLD’S GHOST. The film boasts a script written by APOCALYPTO scribe Farhad Safinia, and will center on the plunder of the Congo by Belgium’s King Leopold II in the late 1800s. In addition to directing the film, Affleck will also produce through his Pearl Street Films banner alongside Martin Scorsese and Emma Koskoff-Tillinger through his Sikelia Productions studio. Safinia’s script will be based on Adam Hochschild’s book King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa.
Set at a moment when European countries were racing to find ways to carve up the natural resources of Africa, Leopold became the world’s richest man with billions stashed in secret bank accounts by gaining private ownership of the Congo Free State, and inserted a mercenary army to cruelly plunder rubber and ivory. He forced the locals to harvest it. Those who refused were dismembered or worse, and the book estimates that as many as 8 million were killed in this ruthless pursuit. (via Deadline)
As the explosive events of the film unfold, audience members will bear witness to how the Congolese defied Leopold II and challenged his corruption. During the altercation, a daring and unlikely alliance between a black American missionary, an English investigative journalist and an Irish spy was forged that shone a light on the horrors and gave birth to the first human rights movement.
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The KING LEOPOLD’S GHOST project marks Affleck’s return to the director’s chair after helming the 2016 action crime drama LIVE BY NIGHT. In the aforementioned film, a group of Boston-bred gangsters set up shop in balmy Florida during the Prohibition era, who then find themselves facing off against the competition and the Ku Klux Klan.
The Congo territory and its sordid history have been of a special interest to Affleck for many years. In fact, the Congo has remained a significant subject of Affleck’s charity work and activism, after having founded the Eastern Congo Initiative in 2010. Established by Ben Affleck and Whitney Williams, the ECI is a grant-making initiative dedicated to working with and alongside the people of Eastern Congo. Since the founding of ECI, Affleck and his associates have worked to increase the amount of public and private funding for the area, in addition to raising awareness for the Congo’s ongoing troubles and suppression of its peoples.
As a subject of great interest to Affleck, I’ve no doubt that he’ll be pouring his heart and soul into this ambitious project. It stands to reason that while the goal is to make an entertaining and informative film, the feature will likely serve as a platform for the goals of Affleck’s ECI organization. After all, every little bit helps, and there’s no greater knowledge than knowing that you’ve helped make a difference in the lives of people less fortunate than yourself.