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Berlin 1885: The Division of Africa

On February 26th, 1885, at Chancellor Otto von Bismarck's official residence in Berlin, the 'Berlin Conference on Africa' came to a successful conclusion. After three months of negotiations amongst the leading diplomats from all the major European powers (and the US), the 'General Act of the Berlin Conference' had been agreed. And a large part of Africa's subsequent fate had been set in motion.

For at a time when an estimated 80% of Africa remained under traditional and local control, the purpose of the Berlin Conference had been for the Great Powers to establish rules amongst themselves for the colonization of Africa and the exploitation of Africa's resources. Including the division of territory, the drawing of maps, and the establishment of Congo -- as a personal possession of the Belgian King. Not surprisingly, no Africans had been invited to the Conference.

Using actual transcripts taken down at the time, BERLIN 1885: THE DIVISION OF AFRICA combines reenactments of the Conference proceedings and previously unexplored archival materials, with the insights of historians and scholars from six nations, to discuss the politics, implications, and legacy of the first international conference about Africa.

'BERLIN 1885 is a remarkable and entertaining-if exasperating, only because of the smugness and duplicity of its participants-portrayal of a critical moment in modern history. It is an interesting and laudable decision that the filmmaker chose to render the story as a dramatization rather than a conventional a representation of how colonialism really worked-and how politics worked then and still works today-it is an estimable addition to our educational and scholarly resources on an ignorable chapter in World History.' -Anthropology Review Database

'Cleverly using the exchanges put down in the diplomatic archives, BERLIN 1885 never sacrifices the demand of the documentary to the virtue of fiction. The seriousness of the program comes nonetheless with a skilful direction that maintains our attention. This a model of the genre, educational but without heaviness.' -Telerama

'A film well carried through, with a rhythm given by the chapters and the addition of some very instructive perspectives (...) The fiction-documentary by Joel Calmettes, a moment of outstanding television, would perfectly find its place in numerous history classes in high school and college.' -Le Monde

'Undoubtedly not to compromise its great historical rigor, BERLIN 1885... refuses to exploit the tricks of fiction.' -Liberation


Main credits

Calmettes, Joël (screenwriter)
Calmettes, Joël (film director)
Pernel, Florence (narrator)
Spiesser, Jacques (actor)
Rajot, Pierre-Loup (actor)
Brandt, Carlo (actor)

Other credits

Photography, William Leroux; editing, Stephanie Mahet; music, Philippe Miller.

Docuseek2 subjects

Distributor subjects

African Studies
History (World)
International Relations


Berlin; Conference; Africa; Bismarck; Division of Africa; 1884; 1885; Joel Calmettes; documentary; film; video; DVD; colonization; borders; Stanley; Great Powers; ; "Berlin 1885: The Division of Africa"; Icarus Films;

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