LFF 2020: African Apocalypse – Review

Release Date – TBC, Cert – N/A, Run-time – 1 hour 28 minutes, Director – Rob Lemkin

Student Femi Nylander travels to Niger to discover both his roots and those of French colonialist Captain Paul Voulet, whose acts are still having effect on modern generations.

One of the most engaging things about African Apocalypse is the fact that it comes from a place of genuine fascination. We follow student and activist Femi Nylander as he travels to Niger to not only learn more about French colonialist Captain Paul Voulet but gradually about himself and his heritage. Nylander is initially inspired by Joseph Conrad’s Heart Of Darkness and its links to the colonisation of Africa, which he begins to investigate the real-life impacts of. It’s easy to be absorbed into his personal interest and intrigue in the situation, as he learns first-hand and pieces together the multi-generational effects of Voulet’s atrocious actions.

Throughout we’re not relieving someone else’s story, we’re trying to figure out what happened and why the story is the way it is. Not only do we witness the modern day effects on multiple areas and villages, those that remained after Voulet led attacks that brought many down completely, but we also experience some of the shocking impacts. Often through archive material such as pictures, recordings and first-hand details, there’s a good blend with the modern day images and investigation. Even with the occasional comparison and look back into Heart Of Darkness – of course the initial starting point for the delve that develops throughout the piece.

There’s a fair deal to see, witness and piece together over the short, just under 90 minutes, run-time of the film. Yet, things are held together well and make for an engaging course for the film. Helped by Rob Lemkin’s sometimes simplistic direction, keeping the focus on Nylander and his journey of personal exploration into both himself and his background. There’s something compelling and sober about it, and yet it allows for the emotional force of the past to have a truly effective hit.

“You can only be free for a bright future if you are free from the past” echoes throughout the film as there are increasingly emotional and horrible images, revelations and unearthings that all tail towards a conclusion that we feel the only thing we can do is possibly prepare for the worst. However, we wait with bated breath, suspense and uncertainty as to how things will pan out, if there’s anywhere they can pan out to, and when Femi will end up on his exploration into the present shockwaves of colonialist atrocities in Africa of the 1890s. It’s an engaging, insightful and most of all personally passionate and invested documentary that truly stirs up power and feelings throughout its investigative course that those involved with are effectively fascinated in.

African Apocalypse’s biggest push is from the fact that those involved are so passionately invested in the path that they are following as they piece together a shocking and emotional story that truly packs a punch with the effects that it continues to have.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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