Today on Change.org’s Human Rights blog, I wrote about the momentum building around the issue of conflict minerals in Congo. Advocacy efforts to bring this illicit trade to light are taking the form of legislation, blogging, campaigning, and filmmaking.
Here’s an excerpt of the post, which highlighted the work of Danish filmmaker Frank Poulsen, whose documentary, "Blood in the Mobile," is set to hit international film festivals later this year.
Acting on a tip his producer heard five years ago in Tanzania about horrific human rights conditions in the mines and the shady business of exporting the minerals from central Africa, Poulsen began investigating and traveled to Congo in 2008.
“Actually getting to the mines takes a long time,” he explained, especially with a video camera. Authorities at all levels must give their permission – officials in the capital of Kinshasa, 1,500 miles away, the immigration police, the regular police, the secret police, and finally, the warlord overseeing the mine. With the help of a 15-year-old miner named Chance, Poulsen and a cameraman have visited the notorious Bisie mine several times, and have even collected haunting footage underground, where people toil often for days at a time.
“The war in eastern Congo is horrific,” Poulsen said. “But this is just the surface. Kids as young as 10 are the ones down in the mines because they are small. We don’t often see what’s happening” at this level of the conflict, he said.
The film documents the process of uncovering these abuses, juxtaposing the story from eastern Congo with the story of the burgeoning movement in the West to compel companies to make ‘conflict-free’ products. As a Nokia user himself, Poulsen felt it would be most effective to tell the industry side of the story by confronting the company as a concerned consumer. He spent a year trying to get in touch with someone who could speak authoritatively about Nokia’s supply chain, and finally decided to just show up at the Nokia headquarters in Finland. All the while, the camera was rolling.
When I asked about the reaction people have when Poulsen explains his film in Europe and the United States, he said most are surprised to hear that there is a war going on in Congo. “Or if they knew about the war, at least they didn’t know it had anything to do with them,” he said. “What I’m trying to do is talk about what to do to end it,” using the tools we have as consumers and constituents.
Click here to read the full post and to watch the trailer for "Blood in the Mobile."
This post is part of a new series that will appear once a week on Change.org’s Human Rights blog.