By Will Barber Taylor
The German King is the real-life story of an African King’s rebellion against the Kaiser’s oppressive rule in Cameroon at the start of the First World War. It is a story that has been forgotten by many in the west, alongside its hero Rudolf Duala Manga Bell. Rudolf had been raised alongside Kaiser Wilhelm and thought that the people of Germany would respect the wishes of the people of Cameroon and the film depicts how Wilhelm betrayed Rudolf’s trust.
It is this conflict, between his childhood friend and his people that drives Rudolf in this film and ensures that the audience can experience his real sense of pain and dejection at what he is going through. Though the film is relatively short, in the brief time it is on screen it allows us to see Rudolf’s internal conflict and his desire to find a resolution to it that does not cost his people their lives or him the friendship of his childhood playmate.
Adetokumboh M’Cormack, who plays King Rudolf alongside writing and directing, is excellent in his portrayal. M’Cormack gives an engaging and subtle performance filled with nobility and a sense of doom. It is clear that Rudolf is unlikely to succeed in his attempt to free his people yet M’Cormack never instils him with any sense of failure; rather a deep belief that what he is doing is right and that if he can do one thing, it is at least to set an example to his son and the people of Cameroon that they must struggle against oppression and that one day they will succeed.
The German King is an engaging and enlightening historical film that highlights one of the most forgotten but troubling periods in our history. Through the lens of Adetokumboh M’Cormack’s keen eye we see the full scope of what many African nations and people suffered at the hands of European colonisers and how their stories should never be forgotten. The German King is a prophetic and timely masterpiece that reminds us of the power of the human spirit