WHY WE MADE THE FILM
The ongoing conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo has been called the "Deadliest War Since World War Two". More than five million Congolese have died since 1994 while millions more have been displaced by the violence and chaos plaguing the region.
Merci Congo is an independently produced documentary film that explores the impulse in people who decide to act in the face of moral indignation. Inspired by the story of famed British activist, E.D. Morel, who discovered evidence of forced labor in the Congo and sparked a movement against a Belgian King, Merci Congo highlights several ‘modern Morels’, each personally transformed by the knowledge of human suffering on a grand scale.
An American college student, a Congolese polio survivor, a schoolteacher, a mother, a political activist, the CEO of a major tech firm—each committed to individual causes, large and small. Whether supporting victims of sexual violence or demanding clean water for a city; whether empowering women in remote areas with technology or cutting funds to rebels by changing a business model, each of these activists tells their story of how they are trying to bring peace to this beleaguered nation and, more importantly, why.
Merci Congo takes an unflinching look at the horror on the ground in eastern Congo, including the incredible failings of a corrupt and incompetent Congolese government. But these failings, and the vivid portraits of despair seen in relief camps and in decimated villages, are ultimately outweighed by a thread of hope never lost in a grand tapestry of chaos, corruption, violence and greed. In the end, the activists in Merci Congo find themselves not only linked by passion and geographic proximity, but by the profound cause and effect of their individual decisions to act. Merci Congo is the story of a beautiful but troubled land told by an amazing group of people who have decided that Congo matters.
Shot on location in eastern Congo, Belgium, the United Kingdom and the United States.
PAUL FREEDMAN -- PRODUCER, DIRECTOR, EDITOR, CINEMATOGRAPHER
Paul is an Emmy and Peabody Award winning film director, producer, writer and editor. He began his career as and editorial assistant for television commercials. As a commercial editor and director, his credits include spots for airlines, automobiles, sport shoes and soft drinks. Today, his passion is social just and his mission is to give a voice to those who have none. His films have covered an array of subjects and issues, from performance artists in London to battlefields in the South Pacific to the conflicts of modern Africa. He has interviewed presidents and Nobel laureates, genocidaires and peacemakers.
His films have tried to make a difference.
“Rwanda—Do Scars Ever Fade?” about the genocide and its painful aftermath, won a Peabody Award and was nominated for two Emmys. “Sand and Sorrow”, executive produced and narrated by George Clooney, was broadcast on HBO and raised awareness about the genocide in Darfur. “Halfway Home”, about American servicemen and women coping with PTSD, has brought attention to the plight of suffering vets here at home. And more recently, “One Last Hug —Three Days at Grief Camp”, an HBO film about children coping with the death of a parent, was awarded a Primetime Emmy.
Paul is from the Bay Area and holds a B.F.A. from San Francisco State University. He currently lives in Los Angeles, is married, and the devoted father of two.
NATALIE LUM FREEDMAN -- PRODUCER
Natalie has worked in every facet of T.V. commercials since launching 2POP Editorial, Inc., a post-production company with offices in Hollywood and Dallas that counted Nike, Southwest Airlines, Honda, General Motors and Bank of America as its primary clients. In addition, she was tapped by Rock the Vote to produce a commercial campaign that included celebrities, musicians, and the NFL’s Quarterback Club. She has overseen productions that include Volkswagen, Kohler, AT&T, Lennox, U.S. Air Force, Southwest Airlines, AARP, John Deere, Cree, and Marshall’s, In addition to producing the documentary film, “Halfway Home”, she served as the executive producer of, “The Tears of Peleliu”, “Sand and Sorrow”, and the America’s Army Real Heroes campaign.
JAMIE DUNLAP -- COMPOSER
After being on the road in rock ‘n roll cover bands for most of the 1980’s, Jamie made the move to LA. and graduated from the Musician’s Institute. Four years working for the Latin jingle house, AZ Productions, sharpened his composing skills and he began writing music for numerous national and regional television commercials. In 1997 he formed Mad City Productions with partner Scott Nikoley, writing and producing scores and source cues for film and television. Recent clients include South Park, MTV, CMT, The History Channel, Maris Entertainment and many independent feature films including, “Rwanda—Do Scars Ever Fade?”, “Sand and Sorrow”, and “Halfway Home”.
JULIE MILLIGAN -- EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
Julie A. Milligan, co-founder of the law firm Silverman & Milligan, has devoted her practice exclusively to family law matters and is specifically trained in collaborative practice and as a mediator. In her travels to Africa, Julie developed a passion for social justice and human rights. She serves on the Board of two non-profit organizations, GO Campaign and Vintage Hollywood.
JIM EVANS -- EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
Founder/Executive Producer/Head of Sales for Untitled Inc., a Santa Monica-based full service Production Company specializing in digital content, commercial, television, documentary and feature production. Jim Evans has 30 plus years of production experience, as well as worldwide client and agency relationships.