Ben Affleck is reportedly set to direct the fact-based drama “King Leopold’s Ghost” for One Community (“Just Mercy”) and his own Pearl Street Films banner. Martin Scorsese, Emma Koskoff-Tillinger and Harry and Gina Belafonte are producing with Affleck as well.
Farhad Safinia (“Apocalypto”) is writing the script based on Adam Hochschild’s book about the atrocities and genocide committed by the titular Belgian ruler in colonial Africa in the late 1800s.
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 by gaining private ownership of the Congo Free State and inserted a mercenary army (under the charade of spreading Christianity) to cruelly plunder rubber and ivory.
Forcing locals to harvest it, and dismembering or killing those who didn’t comply, as many as eight million were slaughtered in this ruthless pursuit. The film will follow the Congolese who defied Leopold II and fought back and their heroic plight sparked a daring and unlikely alliance between a black American missionary, an English investigative journalist and an Irish spy that shone a light on the horrors.
Their work gave birth to the first human rights movement and, among other things, served as an inspiration for Joseph Conrad’s famed novel “Heart of Darkness”. Affleck, who last directed the Dennis Lehane novel adaptation “Live By Night,” founded the advocacy group Eastern Congo Initiative which works with the people of eastern Congo to spur economic and social development.