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Florida Film Festival: Mission Congo

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Mission Congo

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I can't imagine seeing a film this year that would make me more angry than Mission Congo. This documentary shows, in painstaking detail, how millionaire televangelist Pat Robertson used a massive crisis in Africa and the credulity of his own followers to line his own pockets under the guise of humanitarian aid. It is a meticulous and damning film that exposes such corruption, greed, cynicism in the political and cultural right as to defy comprehension.

In the wake of the Rwandan genocide of 1994, a million refugees crossed the border and sought refuge in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, known then as Zaire. The tiny town of Goma became the center of a humanitarian crisis the likes of which had never been seen. Numerous aid groups, including Doctors Without Borders, rushed in to help combat the hunger, thirst and disease that threatened to kill hundreds of thousands of people. One of those groups was Operation Blessing, an organization founded by Pat Robertson. In numerous appearances on CBN and The 700 Club Robertson begged his viewers to help, claiming they were putting dozens of doctors and hundreds of pounds of medicine and food on the ground in Goma.

The makers of Mission Congo show that this was not the case. Through interviews with aid workers and reporters, they piece together what turned out to be an elaborate scam. While Robertson was filming heartwarming videos of his interactions with the refugees of Goma, the money meant to help was in fact setting up a diamond mining operation in western Congo, a scheme that constituted fraud on a grand scale. Despite an investigation that proved Robertson had misled his viewers into donating, a friendly governor and attorney general made sure the case was never brought to court. Operation Blessing still continues to raise money for supposed charity projects in Africa, none of which ever seem to have any real effect on the ground. Not only that, but Robertson allied himself with dubious local authorities, including a Rwandan general directly responsible for the genocide who was later found guilty in The Hague for war crimes, and Charles Taylor, the infamous former president of Liberia,

The film is not an attack on Christianity, as Robertson's defenders will no doubt allege. A number of faith-based humanitarians are interviewed, and to the one they're horrified at what happened with Operation Blessing. I imagine that Robertson apologists wouldn't believe anything in this movie no matter the overwhelming evidence, and they are the ones this film needs to reach the most.

The film doesn't need to resort to any stylish tricks to get its point across. It just juxtaposes the facts as related by witnesses and reporters with the callous and blatant lies of Pat Robertson. I confess that his views on homosexuality and women's reproductive rights didn't endear him to me going in. The entire point of Christianity is to be Christ-like, and after watching Mission Congo it's clear, if the allegations laid forth are true, that Pat Robertson is just the opposite.

For screening info, visit the Florida Film Festival website, and check out my other reviews from the fest here.

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