African Apocalypse review: A powerful exploration of colonialism
Ivan Radford | On 30, Oct 2020
Director: Rob Lemkin
Cast: Femi Nylander
Watch African Apocalypse online in the UK: BFI Player
Say the name “Kurtz” to most film fans and they’ll immediately think of Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now. But Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, on which Francis Ford Coppola’s film was based, has its own legacy, one that’s wrapped up in the horrors of colonialism. African Apocalypse, a new documentary from Rob Lemkin, is an eye-opening retelling of that novel, one that gives voice to those dismissed in the text “savages” – and shows us a real life counterpart to Mr Kurtz.
Paul Voulet was an army captain from France who was part of a mission in 1898 to explore and conquer the nation of Niger. That campaign led to horrific, barbaric acts, as Voulet descended into the darkest depths of human cruelty. We learn of Voulet’s acts through the words of the people whose lives were impacted by them – as told to Femi Nylander. A British-Nigerian student from Oxford University, he journeys to West Africa to reconcile Conrad’s book and its distorted portrayal of the continent with the reality.
The film provide an overdue opportunity to communities not given a platform of this scale to voice their history before. They share trauma that has been passed down through generations, which almost feels at odds with Femi’s sensitive presentation and Lemkin’s arresting visuals. The result is a powerful, informative and thought-provoking watch, one that explores the way that the past still shapes the present, even as its subjects defiantly ensure that it won’t dictate their future.
African Apocalypse is out now in UK cinemas and to rent on BFI Player .