Filmhouse/Cameo 3 ****

There is something of the Shakespearean epic about Lumumba, director Raoul Peck's second investigation of the deposed prime minister of the Congo. While 1991's much-feted Lumumba - Death of a Prophet was a straight-forward documentary, this account of the rise and fall of the Democratic Republic of Congo's enigmatic first prime minister takes the bare facts and weaves a mesmerising, grand, timeless drama.

Lumumba's story is told as the flashback of a man waiting for his execution, with interventions from an anniversary celebration of Congo's independence and his actual murder bookending the main narrative. From his days selling beer to the budding of his political career, a captivating central performance from Eriq Ebouaney makes Lumumba's story irresistible. Ebouaney inhabits this most compassionate and fierce of characters with pathos and passion.

As the land he fought to free slips beyond his control and the political machinations of post-colonial government start to churn against him, Peck's story of Lumumba's martyrdom never once stoops to sentimentality. With a dazzling array of stunning set pieces - the army raids on the marketplace, the burning of Lumumba's body and an exquisite moment on a deserted runway - this is a film which brands itself onto the conscience and leaves Lumumba's hopeful words about "the history of a new Africa" ringing in the ears.

At the Filmhouse tonight and Cameo 3 on Thursday. Box office: 0131-623 8030.


Gareth McLean

The GuardianTramp

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