This is my entry for “V” in the Blogging A to Z Challenge. Throughout April I will be watching and reviewing a documentary movie from A to Z. Previous “V” documentaries I’ve reviewed include Vernon, Florida.
Release Date: April 17, 2014
Director: Orlando von Einsiedel
Production Company: Violet Films | Grain Media
Virunga documents the efforts of park rangers at Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to conserve the habitat of several endangered species, including the few surviving mountain gorillas. From the start, the filmmakers embed the story in Africa’s history of colonialism, corporate exploitation, and war, particularly the recurring conflicts that have erupted since the Rwandan genocide in 1994. The park rangers are heavily armed, and we learn early on that 130 of them have died in the course of their duty. Parallel scenes depict a funeral for a park ranger and the funeral of several mountain gorillas slaughtered by poachers.
The movie depicts ranger Rodrigue Mugaruka Katembo at work and the director of the Virunga National Park, Emmanuel de Merode, overseeing how best to deploy limited resources. We also spend time with the very warm and loving André Bauma and the orphan gorillas he cares for. Current events change the focus of the film as there are even more grave threats to the park. First, the British corporation Soco International gains concessions for oil extraction within the park. Katembo and French investigative journalist Mélanie Gouby both meet with and secretly recorded Soco officials in order to uncover corruption and protect the park. Next, an uprising by a rebel group called the M23, brings armed conflict right to the borders of the park.
Virunga is an absolutely visually-stunning film that ties together a nature documentary with current events and a dramatic throughline worthy of a scripted drama.
What Can One Learn From Watching This Documentary:
Nature documentaries set in Africa are often from the perspective of a white outsider, a David Attenborough or aJane Goodall. Virunga stands out as a story that primarily offers the point of view of Congolese people and their concern for their national park and its animals. That civil conflict and corporate malfeasance are so directly tied into the survival of the park also is unique in demonstrating that protecting endangered species is not separate from the greater human experience.
If You Like This You Might Also Want To …:
The Virunga movie website offers several options to take action and help preserve the national park and its animals.
2019 Blogging A to Z Challenge – Documentary Films, Part II
B: Being Elmo
C: Central Park Five
D: Dear Mr. Watterson
E: The Endless Summer
F: F for Fake
G: Grey Gardens
H: High School
I: Ida B. Wells: A Passion for Justice
J: Jiro Dreams of Sushi
L: The Last Waltz
M: Man With a Movie Camera
N: Nanook of the North
Q: Quest: A Portrait of an American Family
R: Restless Creature: Wendy Whelan
S: Soundtrack for a Revolution
T: Titicut Follies
U: Unforgivable Blackness
If you want to read more, check out my previous Blogging A to Z Challenges:
- 2016: A journey through my neighborhood of Jamaica Plain in Boston.
- 2017: A spontaneous photograph each day.
- 2018: Watched and reviewed documentary movies.
And dig deep into Panorama of the Mountains, by checking out my:
- Book Reviews
- Movie Reviews
- Beer Reviews
- Music Reviews and Writing
- City Stories, expository writing about my experiences in various cities
And, if you like Doctor Who, I have a whole ‘nother blog where I review Doctor Who stories across media: Epic Mandates.