African Apocalypse (dir. Rob Lemkin) is a startling film – both in the sense of the recorded accounts of atrocities that occurred within the Niger, Africa, but also the unsettling feeling of the repetitiveness of the conditions that allowed these crimes to occur.
Femi Nylander is a British-Nigerian Oxford student who traverses West African country of Niger to record the repulsive crusade of Paul Voulet – a dark shadow across Africa that still lingers today. Voulet’s attempts to unite West Africa under French colonial rule descended in to such extreme war crimes that the emotions evident from the modern day Niger peoples are almost unbearable; but bear it they do.
We start in London before heading to Niger – clever editing merging the past and the present to our eyes, a technique which it uses freely throughout the film and to great effect. The past atrocities didn’t just change the history of Niger – it’s still present to this day in everything the Niger people do, think and are taught in schools. One poignant scene with an ever-smiling teacher gives a glimmer of a sunny future while the students study solar power. A powerful interview with these children reveal the tragedies of murdered family members – it’s moments like these that drive home the message of the film: modern day colonialism is generational trauma, it is a wrong that must be righted (looking at you, France).
The dramatic irony of Black Englishman hearing feelings of anger, resistance and oppression against whites is not lost in the film. Femi struggles to interlock the present emotion he sees every day in Niger with the fact that Europe has largely forgotten the massacres that occurred in Niger and left the country broke.
The presence of life becoming art, and vice versa, is thick within the film; the same day Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad was published (excerpts follow the narrative of the film uncannily) Paul Voulet was reported on in the same magazine – a real life Mr. Kurtz if you can imagine such a terror. A terror that is a past, a reality and a future unless the effects of modern day colonialism can be dissected and diffused.
There is hope – the division in the film is supplanted with unity and culminates in some truly stunning scenes of Femi, transformed from a stoic bystander to an active participant in memorial and remembrance. Linking our modern protests at modern day atrocities (the events that sparked BLM protests worldwide this year), the undeniable link between then and now is clear to us. Perhaps there is a heart of darkness in all of us, or perhaps it’s about which side we shine a light on.
We hope you're enjoying BRWC. You should check us out on our social channels, subscribe to our newsletter, and tell your friends. BRWC is short for battleroyalewithcheese.