Unreported World – Congo Review: ‘Heart of Glass: transparent, fragile & irreplaceable’

March 13, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

UNREPORTED WORLD – FOREST OF THE DEAD: Channel 4, Friday 13th March, 7.35pm Alert Me

The idea of the Unreported World series sounds frustratingly unfulfilling. Not only for the viewer but more so for the victims of the crisis on display. The clue being in the title, the series aims to uncover horrific stories that remain under the media’s radar.

Well, great, thanks for reporting it, but what are we going do about it?

The programme seems to assume the typical apathetic response –as the credits role Mr and Mrs Jones will simply shake their heads, mutter at how disgraceful genocide is for a few minutes, until the theme music for A Place in The Sun starts and they are once more submerged in the goo of the TV cocoon.

In this, the first episode of the 17th series, Nima Elgabir travels to North East Congo to investigate claims that rebel group the Lord’s Resistance Army have been conducting vicious attacks on a vast number of villages. Lead by Joseph Kony, a man so criminally insane he inspired a Bond villain; the LRA have moved on from the atrocities committed in Uganda, and have chosen the Congo as the location for its current insurgence. Not to mention the formation of an army from countless child abductees.

As a host, Elgabir is like Josie D’Arby for adults, explaining with a Blue-Peter-endorsed clarity but a substantial lack of sentiment. I find her contemptuously cold throughout the show. Whilst asking the few survivors to share their horrendous tales of woe, Nima candidly describes beatings, mass graves and child murders as if she were reading out the nutritional content of a packet of chewing gum. Is it too much to ask for a tear? Some vague hint at a human emotion?

I understand she is trying to maintain the appearance of a serious journalist. She’s been there, she’s done that, she’s won the Young Journalist of the Year award even, I get it. Yet, as she is describing, in haunting detail, the LRA’s festive killing spree and faced with corpses and murder weapons she can only muster the word “Oh? and a slight gasp. I’d be a wailing mess.

My major gripe, however, or as I like to call it: the apex of Mount Frustration, is that Unreported World cannot truly explain why the Congolese people are being abused in this way and why it is going unnoticed. Surely these are the questions that demand an answer and yet I am still left wondering; livid at the fact that I am likely to be alone in this.

Sally McIlhone