Mother and Child: the Death of Democracy
If director Raoul Peck wanted to cater the film “Lumumba” to Western audiences, it probably would have opened with a slight foreshadowing of his eventual assassination. Instead, the film begins with two white men dragging the dead Congolese leader through the dirt and hacking his body to pieces. With Lumumba’s gruesome death already revealed, the film should have been nothing but a biographical account of the events leading up to Lumumba’s death. However, as the film progresses, we see that rather than focusing on the death of a man, Peck chooses to subtly focus on the death of a country. One of the best examples is Peck’s portrayal of Lumumba’s wife and daughters.
Throughout the movie, Lumumba’s wife and his daughter seem to play the role of peace, love, and unity. As Lumumba’s family unit, they ground him down in a world of sleepless nights. The wife tells her husband to stop working so hard, scolding him for sleeping at his desk. The young daughter consoles her father as he stresses over maintaining his country, and she is even unaware of what a “president” is. Lumumba’s wife and daughter seem to represent the majority of the Congolese people, normal and detached from the political violence surrounding them.
But as Patrice runs into challenges running an independent Republic of the Congo, so do his wife and new daughter. Later on, his wife becomes very ill after giving birth to a new child. This could be Peck’s representation of the troubles of giving birth to a new nation. Moreover, the baby is taken by the Belgians to Switzerland “for safety” from the DRC’s political turmoil. There, she soon dies, just as Lumumba’s dream of a truly independent Congo slowly dies, being taken away from him by foreign actors and put into the hands of the corrupt Mobutu Sese Seko.