Ben Affleck has signed on to direct and produce the historical drama ‘King Leopold’s Ghost,’ with Farhad Safinia (‘The Professor and the Madman,’ ‘Apocalypto’) on scripting duty, Deadline has learned.
The film is inspired by Adam Hochschild’s best-selling book about Leopold II of Belgium’s genocidal plunder in the Congo in the early 20th Century and the Congolese who defied him and fought back.
Leopold became the world’s richest man with billions stashed in secret bank accounts by gaining private ownership of the Congo Free State. He inserted a mercenary army to plunder rubber and ivory, forcing locals to harvest it, and dismembering or killing those who refused. Hochschild’s book, which also was the source material for a 2006 documentary, estimates that as many as 8 million were killed in Leopold’s ruthless pursuit.
The heroic plight and resilience of the Congolese people sparked an unlikely alliance between Irish patriot Roger Casement, black American missionary William Sheppard, and English investigative journalist Edmund Dene Morel, and gave birth to the first great human rights movement of the twentieth century.
Producing alongside Affleck and his Pearl Street Films banner will be Martin Scorsese’s Sikelia Productions, Harry and Gina Belafonte, with Emma Koskoff-Tillinger also on board.
Affleck, who is also a co-founder of the Eastern Congo Initiative, which was launched in 2010 an advocacy and grant-making initiative for the people of eastern Congo, has been working on ‘King Leopold’s Ghost’ for several years and was at one point considering a limited series.