Gosling goes behind the camera for DRCongo book

Actor Ryan Gosling is best known for films as diverse as “La La Land” and “First Man” but he recently moved behind the lens for a passion project — taking photos in the crisis-hit Democratic Republic of Congo. (AFP)
Updated 15 December 2018
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Gosling goes behind the camera for DRCongo book

  • The actor teamed up with the Enough Project, which aims to address mass atrocities in conflict hotspots
  • “Congo Stories” guides readers from pre-colonial days through Belgian rule to independence in 1960, and the current situation under President Joseph Kabila

WASHINGTON: Actor Ryan Gosling is best known for films as diverse as “La La Land” and “First Man” but he recently moved behind the lens for a passion project — taking photos in the crisis-hit Democratic Republic of Congo.
The 38-year-old Gosling, who is Canadian, is no stranger to advocacy in Africa — for a decade, he’s been working with the Enough Project, which aims to end mass atrocities in the continent’s conflict hotspots.
On the DRC, he teamed up with the Enough Project’s founding director John Prendergast and Congolese activist Fidel Bafilemba to draw attention to the brutal colonization of the central African country.
In “Congo Stories: Battling Five Centuries of Exploitation and Greed,” the pair unpack the tortuous history of the mineral-rich DRC and how its residents are looking to the future — with photos by Gosling.
“It was just this theme of an unwavering resilience and an unwillingness to be broken, and these expressions of hope,” the actor said at a book event on Thursday at George Washington University in the US capital.
“It is hope that is generated from people like Fidel and Chouchou,” the two-time Oscar nominee added, referring to journalist and rights activist Chouchou Namegabe, who also contributed to the project.
Following a trip to northern Uganda in 2008, Gosling and Prendergast decided to head to the eastern DRC in 2010, to travel alongside Bafilemba.
“At the time, Ryan was just taking photos like he was some guy who’d never been to a place before and wanted to document what he was seeing,” Prendergast told AFP in an interview.
After mulling over a second trip years later, the pair decided instead to take Gosling’s photos, Prendergast’s research and Bafilemba’s interviews with Congolese “upstanders” — in other words, primarily young citizens working toward change — to create the book.
“Congo Stories” guides readers from pre-colonial days through Belgian rule to independence in 1960, and the current situation under President Joseph Kabila — whose successor will be chosen December 23 in what is already proving a turbulent election.
It details everything from the sale of slaves to work on US plantations to the vast exploitation of the gutting of the country’s remarkable array of resources.
From rubber and ivory at the turn of the 20th century, to uranium to develop the atomic bomb, and now the “three Ts” — tin, tantalum and tungsten — vital to mobile phones and laptops or cobalt, which is key to electric car batteries.
Conflict persists notably in North Kivu province on DRC’s eastern border, which has been subject to waves of bloodshed involving militias, rebel groups and government forces for more than 20 years.
The country, also ravaged by sexual violence, has not known a peaceful transition of power since gaining independence.
For Prendergast, the book not only “calls for solidarity” with the DRC, but asks readers “to challenge... those economic arrangements that have led to this extraordinary situation of human suffering.”
Bafilemba said he would like to see Americans place more pressure on their lawmakers to act.
“They need to pressure the administration, their Congress, their Senate to hold Congolese corrupt leaders to account by keeping them... on sanctions lists, freezing their assets, banning their travels into this country,” he said.
Bafilemba also called upon US students to pressure their universities — big buyers of mineral-packed electronics — to source conflict-free products.
“I’m not asking you (for) your dollars. Just be demanding that your companies stop (what) they have been doing back in Africa, and particularly in Congo,” he added.


Why ‘Gone With the Wind’ eclipses both ‘Avengers’ and ‘Avatar’

Updated 22 July 2019
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Why ‘Gone With the Wind’ eclipses both ‘Avengers’ and ‘Avatar’

  • The $402 million taken in by “Gone with the Wind” after its 1939 release places it in a paltry 285th position in raw dollar terms
  • That compares to $2.7902 billion for “Avengers: Endgame,” which this weekend just squeaked past the “Avatar” total of $2.7897

NEW YORK: Even as Disney confirmed Sunday that “Avengers: Endgame” had become the top-grossing movie ever, film historians noted that “Gone With the Wind” still has a strong case for being the most successful film of all time.
The $402 million taken in by “Gone with the Wind” after its 1939 release places it in a paltry 285th position in raw dollar terms. But that ignores the huge role of price inflation over time.
The epic historic romance, set during and after the US Civil War, sold the enormous 215 million tickets in the United States, far and away the record in that category, according to the Internet Movie Database. It’s box office was boosted by seven national releases between 1939 and 1974.
“Gone with the Wind” would have sold $1.958 billion worth of tickets today in the US market alone, based on what the National Association of Theatre Owners says was an average US ticket price in 2018 of $9.11.
Worldwide, and with inflation taken into account, the film would have taken in a stunning $3.44 billion, the Guinness Book of World Records has estimated.
That compares to $2.7902 billion for “Avengers: Endgame,” which this weekend just squeaked past the “Avatar” total of $2.7897.
Consider also that the US population in 1939 was a mere 130 million, roughly 200 million less than today.
For some, however, the success of the epic film — it runs three hours and 58 minutes — is troubling.
With a story line based on the novel by Margaret Mitchell, some historians see it as one of the most ambitious and successful examples of Southern revisionism.
Immediately after the Civil War (1861-1865), there was a broad push in the US South to cast the formerly slave-holding region in a softer light.
Those purveying the so-called “Lost Cause” ideology insisted that the Southern states had fought not to preserve slavery, but because the North was infringing on their political independence.
Yet in their declarations of secession from the Union, the Southern states were clear about their primary motive: the Northern states’ refusal to extradite escaped slaves and their “increasing hostility... to the institution of slavery,” as South Carolina’s declaration stated.
“Slavery is not even a critical issue in the movie,” said Kathryn Stockett, author of “The Help,” about black maids in the South in the early 1960s.
“You have these African-Americans that are working for these white families, and it’s as if it’s just their job... something they chose to do,” Stockett says in the documentary “Old South, New South.”
For Randy Sparks, a Tulane University history professor, “Gone With the Wind” exemplifies the way Southerners were able to impose their version of events.
“There aren’t many cases in history,” Sparks said, “where the losers write the history.”
It was thanks to “Gone With the Wind” that in 1940 Hattie McDaniel, who plays Scarlett O’Hara’s faithful slave “Mammy,” won the first Oscar awarded to a black actress.
But racial segregation was still deeply rooted in Hollywood, as in many parts of American society, and on Oscar night McDaniel had to sit at a small table in the rear of the famed Cocoanut Grove nightclub in the Ambassador Hotel, far from the film’s big stars, Vivian Leigh and Clark Gable.
Producer David O. Selznick had to intervene personally to secure her a room in the Ambassador, which refused to admit black customers until 1959.