Filmmaker Frank Poulsen’s “Blood in the Mobile,” a full-length documentary tracing the link between cell phones and violence in eastern Congo, opens in Amsterdam today at the world’s largest documentary film festival. Now in its 23rd year, the International Documentary Film Festival
boasts 280 titles from filmmakers across the globe. “Blood in the Mobile” is one of 14 competitors for Best Feature Length Documentary.
For the film, Poulsen gained access to one the Congo’s most infamous mines, Bisie, to chronicle the illegal mineral trade that has for years contributed to the violence that plagues the eastern region. Traveling to the mine was no easy task. Poulsen had to negotiate licenses from numerous government agencies, secure transport on rickety cargo planes, and trek for three days through the bush to reach Bisie. What he found was “almost beyond description,” Poulsen said. Boys as young as 10 are forced to work in the mines because their smaller bodies are able to fit in the tiny tunnels and crevices where the minerals are found. They often stay in the depths of the mine for days at a time—some even told Poulsen they worked below ground for a week straight.
Poulsen took the story to the Finland headquarters of mobile phone giant Nokia, which serves 1.2 billion customers worldwide. Nokia is the world’s largest manufacturer of mobile phones, with net profits of nearly $1.6 billion annually (1.2 billion euros). After numerous hours waiting for Nokia to return his phone calls and repeatedly being turned away at its headquarters, Poulsen finally secured a meeting with a Nokia official. However, his encounter was less than satisfying. Nokia could not guarantee that they do not buy the minerals financing the war in the Congo.
Until a system is in place for regulating mining in eastern Congo and tracing mineral supply chains, Nokia certainly isn’t the only one.
Poulsen’s harrowing 82-minute film illuminates the real human impact the illicit conflict minerals trade is having on the civilian population in the region. Through people forced to work in the mines, fearful of being caught in the crossfire of the armed militias vying for control of the lucrative mines, or whose families have been torn apart by years of persistent violence, the conflict has touched the entire region. The film, through its humor and earnestness, connects the violence on the ground in eastern Congo with those of us thousands of miles away powering up our laptops and carrying around our cell phones.
“Blood in the Mobile” is not a film for the faint of heart, but it is a film that every electronics consumer and company alike should watch. The next time we email, text, or chat we should consider the devices that perform these tasks and use our voice as consumers to demand that companies clean up their supply chains.
If you’re in Amsterdam, “Blood in the Mobile” is screening on these dates and locations:
November 18 at 10:00 am at the Tuschinski
November 22 at 1:00 pm at the Tuschinski
November 23 at 7:30 pm at the Tuschinski
November 25 at 11:45 am at the Munt
Follow "Blood in the Mobile" on Facebook and stay tuned for its release in the United States.