The lush landscapes and winding waters of the Democratic Republic of the Congo are a beautiful deception. Beneath these natural wonders lies a long and traumatic history of poverty and conflict. Congo: A Journey to the Heart of Africa offers a travelogue through the countryside that proves equal parts harrowing and awe-inspiring.
The country is rich in natural resources, but its people are among the poorest in the world. An upcoming election provides a glimmer of hope for change. The filmmakers step aboard a boat to begin a 3,000 mile journey down and around the Congo River. They're looking for the lingering signs of the country's tumultuous past, and possible signs that point to the potential for a more promising future.
A series of stops along the way shine a spotlight on a unique culture, a shared history of strife and violence, and steep challenges they continue to face with great bravery and determination. Powerful rapids outside of Burma could be used to harness enough hydroelectric energy to power the entire nation. Thus far, this opportunity has not been realized.
Deep in the forest, a pygmy tribe ventures out to hunt for food and secure their livelihoods. Armed with machetes, they hack at rubber trees and collect the valuable sap. Under the reign of King Leopold II over a hundred years ago, gatherers just like them would have their hands severed if they failed to meet their daily quota of sap.
Workers at a nature reserve on the fringes of the rain forest take samples of plantation for climate change research, and attempt to curb the destruction of their country's most prized asset through innovative planting techniques.
In a secluded national park, they catch sight of one of the most endangered species in the region - the eastern lowland gorilla - and observe these majestic creatures in the comfort of their natural habitat.
Stepping through the eastern Congo with peacekeepers from the United Nations, the filmmakers witness an environment plagued by an outbreak of Ebola.
Congo: A Journey to the Heart of Africa takes the viewer on a breathless journey. By the film's conclusion, one feels they've gained a palpable sense of the country, their people, and the promise of a more prosperous future.