- A dramatic and compelling documentary about a national park, the pursuit of oil, civil war and the last wild mountain gorillas 6/25/2014 12:00:00 AM by Red-Barracuda
Virunga National Park in the Congo is a place of unique natural beauty. It is the home to a plethora of wonderful animals and vegetation but as is so often the way, it has several serious problems that threaten it. It's the location of human violence, corruption and exploitation. The disasters that specifically loom are two different groups, the M23 and SOCO International. The former are a violent rebel force who engages in an ongoing civil war with the Congolese government and the latter are a British energy company who specialise in oil exploration. Both M23 and SOCO invade the park in their own ways and neither seems very interested in the laws that have been set up to protect the flora and fauna that exist there, far less the people who live there. It seems hardly surprising in the case of M23, as they are a paramilitary organisation who can hardly be expected to be concerned with such things but it is the more legitimate big business SOCO who seem more worrying if anything. We discover in fact that they have been involved in a bribery campaign, utilising M23 as enforcers. It's a very murky situation where big money walks all over an impoverished nation and disregards a natural space that they can see no value in in their pursuit of financial profit.
The symbol of the park in many ways is the mountain gorillas. Virunga is the last place on earth where they live freely in the wild and they are a protected species. This, of course, doesn't stop poachers killing parent apes and forcibly kidnapping the young for sale. Nor does it stop enemies of the park from simply killing these magnificent animals in an attempt to destroy the very thing that they see the park being protected for, in an attempt to make Virunga a place devoid of a reason to be protected in the first place. It's a horribly cynical situation. The documentary often almost plays out like a movie in its drama. We often hear about people working hard to save the environment but in Virunga we witness people literally putting their lives on the line fighting for this issue. This is the front line for environmentalists, a bloody warzone where it's pretty obvious who the good guys are. Over the course of the last fifteen years, 130 park rangers have been killed protecting Virunga. It's not far off one death a month and it shows the extreme dedication of these brave folks.
The film focuses chiefly on four such brave souls. There is Emmanuel de Merode, a Belgian warden who runs the park and dedicates himself to its protection. He was shot by gunmen two days after handing in a dossier of evidence against SOCO. Thankfully he survived and went straight back to work. We also have Rodrigue, one of Emmanuel's park rangers, who puts himself in the firing line on a daily basis. He also goes undercover for the film in order to expose bribery tactics. Likewise, Melanie, a French freelance journalist, also goes undercover to expose the views of the SOCO people involved in the enterprise. And lastly there is Andre, the guardian of four young gorillas, orphaned by the poachers. His dedication to the animals is touching and he is, to all intents and purposes, their parent. He links us back into the gorillas and the very essence of Virunga itself.
This is a very strong documentary about an issue that is not so well known. It avoids preachiness and simply shows us things. Director Orlando von Einsiedel has to be given a lot of credit for how he handles the material and presents it in an engaging way, while making a very serious point. Unsurprisingly, there is much gritty, on-the-fly footage but it is also combined with beautifully composed images of the park. The cinematography at times is actually quite stunning. It makes sense to have adopted this approach, as this is a film that is about grim exploitation but also one about something very beautiful too.
- Beautiful and hard-hitting documentary about the battle to save Africa's oldest National Park 10/17/2014 12:00:00 AM by ek-norton
Virunga is a stunning film, part nature documentary, and part gritty exposé of the realities of life on the ground in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country that has been torn apart by conflict for thirty years.
Director Orlando von Einsiedel does an incredible job at telling a complex story - documenting the beauty and remarkable vitality of Virunga National Park, alongside a developing story of corruption and greed, as it is revealed that a British oil company, Soco International, has been exploring for oil with the park's boundaries.
The film features remarkable characters, from the gentle and fatherly gorilla carer Andre Bauma, through to the fearless French journalist Melanie Gouby, alongside the remarkable rangers who put their lives on to protect Congo's natural heritage.
To make this film even more engaging, the issues at its heart are still very much relevant, and even though oil company Soco agreed in June 2014 to halt exploration the park, the fight is still not over. I urge you to watch this film, and educate yourself on its surrounding campaign. This is not a story which should be forgotten.
- Great Documentary highlighting an important cause 11/21/2014 12:00:00 AM by ThomasJeff
The documentary does a great job of telling the various stories and building up suspense while showing us the beauty of the country.
The only historical "inaccuracy" was that they didn't flat out say that King Leopold of Belgium literally committed genocide in the Free Congo State by killing 10-30 million people for his own personal financial gains. It was in fact the first genocide of the 20th century. I wouldn't say it was corporations, King of Belgium is a government not a corporation.
Other than that everything about the movie was great. It had great emotions and the characters showed a lot of character.
The absurdity of the corporations attempt to try to get oil by damaging environmental or animal conservation efforts is ridiculous. They can just as easily provide for the animals and their habitat and it would not cost much.
- Compulsory education 1/11/2015 12:00:00 AM by engels-rudy
I saw this movie at the Docville festival in Leuven, Belgium. This a film festival with just documentaries. I had to choose between several movies and I'll never going to regret one second the choice I've made. I saw the mountain gorillas myself at Bwindi in Uganda so maybe my reaction is a little bit biased... The film is more than just a film about those magnificent animals. It's about how "we" cope with our resources but even more importantly how other people (e.g. the rangers) even give their lives to protect this. I wept during the film out of frustration but also out of an enormous respect for the film makers, rangers and everyone involved. I've had the chance to speak with Orlando von Einsiedel afterwards and it's one of the conversations that will stay with me forever. It's one of those movies that should be compulsory at school education, ... and a movie everyone should have in their collection!
- People being bad at being human. 2/14/2015 12:00:00 AM by marivic_gabriel
"You must justify why you are on this earth. Gorillas justify why I am here. They are my life." - André Bauma, Virunga National Park
In a world where everyone at some point have been selfish or had an act of narcissistic behavior, how many people can say that?
I think everyone should know about it. It showed me selflessness, love that is unconditional despite the race, evil and goodness.
I think a movie is good if it creates a sense of doing, acting. A film which makes you want to do something beyond the movie seats, create a reality out of entertainment.
People say that is how a film touches one's soul, I say that is how a film creates reality for us. Not everyone has the same privileges we were born with, the same freedom or right. We all came to earth the same way but it does not mean we are able to have the same peace.
A film can show us exactly how we are more and how we can help, and this film did just that. It makes you think of what other ways to help.
I think everyone should watch it to get to reality, get a realization. A realization that maybe not all men are equal, but all beings are equal.