On December 7, 1877, the Deseret Evening News (Salt Lake City) included an article which stated:
Stanley the traveler has furnished the world with a complete map of the course of that mighty river, the Congo, down in Africa. A fresh field is opened to missionary labor. The benighted tribes of the wilds of Africa will not long be left without the knowledge of the world’s Redeemer . . . The emancipation of the colored race in the United States and opening up of the long hidden regions of interior Africa are indications of the workings of the Almighty towards the lifting up and final redemption of this branch of the human family.
It is no surprise that Africans were referred to as “benighted.” Not long after this article was published Joseph Conrad wrote Heart of Darkness. That short novel was set in the Congo, and depicted a morally impoverished people, who had ultimately worshipped the colonizer Kurtz. Kurtz’s last words as he contemplated what he had become in sinking to such depravity were, “The horror, the horror.”
Chinua Achebe has critized Conrad’s work for its colonial bias, and for its simplistic portrayal of the Congolese. His evocative book, Things Fall Apart, invites the reader into the African continent where they will see strange and sometimes offensive cultural traditions, but will also witness the tenderness of the families, the peculiar beauty of their traditions, and the tests of courage the protagonist must endure to find his place in the society or to lose it.
In our film, we seek to show the Congolese and others of African lineage in all their dignity and grace; in their free laughter and distinctive music. We also show the ways “things fall apart” due to disease, alcoholism, and AIDS, but hope our viewers find the theme of redemption the most lingering aspect of the film. We also show the strengths and weaknesses of the Anglo missionaries, and make an effort to have the Africans (from various countries) be portrayed in leadership positions. Too often, pictures of Anglos and Africans depict the Anglos teaching and the Africans learning. The truth is, only as we love one another as full equals and teach each other about our various cultural gifts can we truly become united. Only then is there hope for reconciliation and a future which honors every human being infinitely.