Heart of the Congo (2005)

In the Heart of the Congo, at the end of five years of civil war and 300 miles from the nearest paved road, a handful of aid workers help refugees who have lost everything. Filmmaker Tom Weidlinger lives amongst them and tells their story as they train Congolese staff to run health clinics, mobilize villagers to dig wells for clean water and nurse children suffering from acute malnutrition.

War changes people’s sense of time. Survival has become a day-by-day proposition. It makes no sense to plan for tomorrow when everything can so easily be taken away. Yet thinking ahead, planting seeds for the future, is the path out of misery. Beyond ministering to immediate hunger and disease, the European and Congolese aid workers struggle to nurture villagers’ collective will and courage to build a self-sufficient future.

Threats of violence from roving militia bands, systemic corruption, and the legacy of colonial dependency are daily obstacles. When Weidlinger comes down with malaria, two aid workers pick up the camera and continue to skillfully document their work. The film goes on even as the entire aid operation is threatened by a return of violence, with civilians inevitably caught in the middle. A village is burned, three health centers are pillaged, and health workers are taken hostage, but the heroes of this film, both Congolese and European, go on. Heart of the Congo is a film about courage, hope, perseverance and ways in which humanitarian aid can make a lasting difference.

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