This film is held by the BFI (ID: 153691).


DOCUMENTARY. Record of film made by the Denis-Roosevelt Belgian Congo Expedition.

RL.1 We follow the journey of the expedition from Belgium via France, Spain, Morocco and the Sahara into the heart of the Belgian Congo. In Morocco, we see craftsmen at work and the celebrations of a pilgrimage arriving at the gates of the city. In the desert, the party is met by the French garrison of Colonial troops at each oasis. The journey is slowed down by soft sand underfoot and sandstorms. Central Africa - wild game, zebras, giraffes, rhinoceros, hippotami. Crossing of the river near Bangassou on crudely-constructed native ferries. Process of making hollowed-out canoes from tree trunks shown (821 ft).

RL.2 Party taken to native village; fishing with huge nets; skill of fishermen in water. The expedition meet tribal chief and his 400 wives. Shots of the chief being adorned for the occasion. A wife has her hair dressed and nails manicured; examples of plate head-dress. A mother shows how a child's head is bound to give the skull the characteristic elongated appearance of this tribe. Domestication of wild African elephants at the government station; newly-captured elephants taken to river to bathe. Sequence showing how an elephant is trained to bear a man on his back (647 ft).

RL.3 Life at camp; feeding animals, baby wild boars, baboons. Initiation ceremonies of boys to manhood; music of sticks; symbolic bird dance; ceremonial dances in secret clearing. Boys given a potion brewed by the witch doctor; taken to sacred stream and given test of endurance. Expedition crosses river by vine-bridge in order to meet pygmies. Pygmies pound tree bark to make cloth. Beauty parlour: women paint their faces with coloured juices (953 ft).

RL.4 Removing eyelashes of pygmy men; old woman smokes 10 feet pipe of bitter leaves. Tribe seen making poisoned arrows and nets for hunting. Hunting procedures - capture of pygmy antelope. At camp - bathing a monkey. Truckloads of pygmies arrive for a treat provided by the expedition - a carcase of elephant meat. Ritual cutting-up of elephant. Chief climbs into carcase and first cuts of slivers of meat for his friends (762 ft).

RL.5 Everyone then hacks-off a piece. After the feast, the tribe relaxes, playing flutes and drums. Journey to the country of the giants. Shots of boiling streams. Fences close-off fishing pools from main river; a man fishing with conical basket. Difficult climb up mountainside-puff adders, etc. Volcanic foams of crater Nyamlagira in full eruption. They cross the crater, treading painfully on lava; the summit is reached, after which they descend to the land of the giants where they are surrounded by giant vegetation. The hills of Ruanda are reached. The Queen Mother of the tribe [Tutsi] and her entourage meet the expedition. Armand meets the King and his sisters (881 ft).

RL.6 Shots of a special breed of cow, driven here from ancient Egypt centuries ago. In an elaborate ceremony, some of the finest animals are presented to the King. Court dancers perform. Pygmies build a primitive bridge of vines, swinging across the river on a rope to secure the vine on the other side (923 ft).

RL.7 Completion of vine bridge by pygmies after which they hold a night-time celebration. The beginning of the annual elephant capture organised by the Belgian 'Service de Domestication des Elephants'. Tame elephants, natives and the Belgian director of the station set out with covered wagons, accompanied by the expedition. The next day, they sight the herd; the natives creep round the other way, while the director selects a suitable elephant for capture (862 ft).

RL.8 The attack is launched; the elephants flee and a chase ensues. One is caught, but fells his captor with his trunk and plunges on. Again, he is caught and tethered to a tree but escapes by pulling it up by the roots. Capture is finally made and he is calmed by the tame elephants. On the homeward journey, huge fires started by lightning storms, break out and the expedition flees, eventually abandoning all equipment except the film, and reach the river. Next morning, rescue comes by canoe (689 ft).

"TOTAL FOOTAGE": 6538 feet.




Technical Data

Running Time:
75 minutes
Film Gauge (Format):
6732 ft

Production Credits

Production Countries:
DENIS, Armand
Production Company
Armand Denis Productions