When you bring your cellphone up to your ear, spare a thought for people of Democratic Republic of Congo. Odds are that your mobile will contain a mineral piece from this central African country: coltan. Laptops and other gizmos also have this mineral.
Coltan is the colloquial name for columbite-tantalite, a metallic ore. Its high melting point and resistance to corrosion coupled with its unique ability to conduct heat and electricity make coltan particularly prized
Patrick Forestier's documentary is about the costs of mining coltan. On the face of it, coltan mining is an egalitarian affair. Just about anyone with a shovel and a strong back can dig it up. But the picture gets muddied by the guerilla factions that control Congo. Throw in their government backers in Rwanda we are dealing with a story every bit as gruesome as Edward Zwick's 2006 film, Blood Diamond. Only the characters are real.
The film goes into one of the areas controlled by one of the many satraps who lord it over Congo, General Laurent Nkunda. It gives another perspective to what the media usually describes as Africa's ethnic conflicts: a lot of us are complicit in it.
Akhtar Hamid is a filmmaker
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