Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Widow


Kate Beckinsale seems to be known mostly for the six films in the Underworld franchise, which we haven’t seen. Since it’s apparently about vampires, we probably won’t see them. Her appearance here makes it easy to believe she can do an action film. She has a physical presence that’s hard to imitate. You either have it or you don’t. This is not really an action film, but there are scenes where she convinces me that she is capable of taking care of herself.

The story is that three years ago her husband died in a plane crash in the Democratic (don’t make me laugh) Republic of the Congo that killed all 60-something souls aboard, except for one woman, who died a few days later. Then she sees video footage of a riot in Kinshasa, and is convinced that he is in the picture. So she goes to Africa to try to find him, and if he is alive, find out how he survived, and why he never called her. The plot thickens over eight episodes, with many twists and surprises. We thought it was an effective adventure. The scenes in Africa were particularly good.

I’m afraid the DRC is one of those shithole countries our pretend president talked about. Did you know that the Second Congo War, which began in 1992 and has never really ended, is the most destructive conflict since WWII? No shit, well over five million dead. It has left the countryside infested with militias, resistance armies, insurgencies, and tribal hostilities. Some of these groups maybe had a political purpose when formed, and some, such as the Lord’s Resistance Army, led by a man who claims to be the voice of God, were thugs and monsters from the beginning. But now all of them are just thugs, raping and slaughtering at will. They specialize in abducting and training child soldiers, as young as twelve. Just yank them away from their families, often killing the families in the process, and hand them an AK-47. These children develop into the most stone-cold killers you can imagine. They have no fear and no compunctions. Myself, I believe that anyone who is involved in turning children into soldiers should be shot on sight. No trial, no appeal, no mercy. I’d even put a bounty on them, that’s how much I hate them.

Aside from showing a lot of that, the story revolves around something I’d never heard of: coltan. There’s a good chance you have never heard of it. I had heard of conflict diamonds, but conflict minerals was a new one on me. The trafficking in the stuff is at the heart of one of the biggest problems in Africa, a continent which has more than its fair share.

Coltan is a metallic ore containing niobium and tantalum. What’s that got to do with me, you may ask. I don’t own any tantalum. Actually, the chances are almost 100% that you do. In fact, the chances are very good that the tantalum you own is within a few feet of you as you read this. It’s in your cell phone. It’s probably in your computer, too, and your car electronics. I am unclear if it is absolutely necessary to use tantalum capacitors in these devices, or if it is simply cheaper and more effective than the alternatives. And I am even more unclear what to do about the thousands of lives lost every year mining it and fighting over it.