Virunga National Park, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is home to the last Mountain Gorillas in the wild. The documentary “Virunga”, details the lives and efforts of those who have sworn to protect the park from outside threats. These threats vary from poachers to those in control of Congo’s natural resources. Andre Bauma, the caretaker of orphaned gorillas, has dedicated his life to ensure that the gorillas affected by the enemies of the park will have a safe and full life. It is up to the National Park Rangers, however, to protect the gorillas and prevent the baby gorillas from ever being orphaned. The struggles that the park faces is that the poachers and militias that threaten the gorillas, have more funding for weapons than the rangers. During the filming of the documentary, a newly formed rebel group declared war, leaving the filmmakers caught in the crossfire (virungamovie.com). The comprised film outlines the established threats against the park, as well as firsthand coverage of a surfacing peril. One can help the park with its lack of funding by going to the movie’s website and contributing through a single monetary gift or a monthly donation. “Virunga” does an incredible job of covering the recent crises in the DRC, informing the public about these important issues, and helping to do something about it.
The tragedies surrounding Mountain Gorillas and other endangered species is nothing new to the continent of Africa or the world in general. However, the number of gorillas dropped so low in 2008, that the species was dubbed “critically endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Since then, the population has been steadily increasing thanks to the conservation efforts of the park. Although the documentary is focused around the dangers that the gorillas and the park faces every day, director Orlando von Einsidel had traveled to the DRC, in 2012, with intentions of detailing the progress made in replenishing the Mountain Gorilla population. He and the crew shifted their focus toward the new threat that arose shortly after their arrival. In order to reach more people and particularly the younger generation (who are more impressionable), the documentary was distributed by Netflix, the world’s largest movie supplier. The film was received extremely well and earned itself a nomination for Best Documentary at the 87th Academy Awards.
Von Einsidel and his crew had originally intended to produce an uplifting documentary about the resilience of the Mountain Gorilla and the bravery of the men that protect them. This all changed when they realized that there was a bigger storyline at hand. The documentary turned into a medium to alert the public about the dark forces that endanger the lives of these gorillas. With Leonardo DiCaprio as its executive producer, the film held a certain ethos when it was presented to the public. Included in the film are plenty shots of baby gorillas playing with toys and other cute scenes that would make the coldest of hearts fall in love with these animals. With no main narrator, the film feels unbiased and allows the viewer to take in all the information and form their own opinion on the topic.
For the reasons above, and for my bias toward movies featuring animals, I have given this documentary 5 out of 5 stars.