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||IMDB Rating: 8.3/10 from votes
||Release: 7 November 2014 (Netherlands) /
||Genre: Documentary, War
||Director: Orlando von Einsiedel,
||Stars: André Bauma, Emmanuel de Merode, Mélanie Gouby, Rodrigue Mugaruka Katembo, Vianney Kazarama
||Synopsis: In the forested depths of eastern Congo lies Virunga National Park, one of the most bio-diverse places in the world and home to the last of the mountain gorillas. In this wild, but enchanted environment, a small and embattled team of park rangers - including an ex-child soldier turned ranger, a carer of orphan gorillas and a Belgian conservationist - protect this UNESCO world heritage site from armed militia, poachers and the dark forces struggling to control Congo's rich natural resources. When the newly formed M23 rebel group declares war in May 2012, a new conflict threatens the lives and stability of everyone and everything they've worked so hard to protect. Written by Anonymous
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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.
Tags for Virunga Full Movie
, Emmanuel de Merode
, Mélanie Gouby
, Rodrigue Mugaruka Katembo
, Vianney Kazarama
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