• Film

Docs: “Virunga” – The World’s Last Mountain Gorillas

Virunga, the Oscar-nominated documentary tells the incredible true story of four rangers who, during political and social unrest risk their lives to protect one of Africa’s most precious wildlife national parks and its endangered gorillas, some of the world’s last mountain gorillas. Directed by Orlando von Einsiedel and produced by Leonardo DiCaprio, the powerful Netflix documentary showcases incidents that occurred in Congo’s Virunga National Park during the rise of the violent M23 Rebellion in 2012. It also examines the British oil company Soco’s oil drillings.

The story follows four main figures: The viewer is introduced first to André Bauma, a park ranger, who has a unique connection with the park’s endangered gorillas. Emmanuel de Merode, the chief warden and a member of the Belgian Royal family, and Rodrigue Mugaruka Katembo are both wardens dedicated to preserving the park and fending off exterior threats. The French journalist Mélanie Gouby investigates the role of Soco International’s activities in the area.

Originally, Von Einsiedel’s film team set out to document the world’s last remaining mountain gorillas, then, it became enmeshed in corruption and brutal violence with undercover footage of Soco representatives seen attempting to bribe park rangers.

Director Orlando von Einsiedel, who lived for months in a tent alongside the wards, followed chief warden Emmanuel de Merode as he captures one poacher and interrogates him while scorching his camp. During an interview with Bizarre Culture the director said: “If I knew that war would break out around us, I wouldn’t have wanted to be there. The tragedy is that it did happen, and it affected all the people we worked with and cared about, so of course, we included it.”

Cinematographically this gripping story reveals breathtaking images of nature. von Einsiedel also captured the rawness of each of the main figures’ emotions. Meanwhile what will remain undoubtedly the most heart-wrenching moments to see are the wide-eyed gorillas who are watching silently from the bushes. It’s those images of these beautiful creatures observing the never-ending saga that will stay with you. Against impossible odds, these apes manage to stick together.

Virunga premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival on 17 April 2014 and went on to win at numerous prestigious international film festivals. After airing on Netflix, the film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

For those that would like to help they can go to: virungamovie.com – where an entire list of action points and ways to help can be found.