Coming to theatres today, Friday, November 7: VIRUNGA
Orlando von Einsiedel’s chronicle of Congo’s imperiled national park bowed at Tribeca. Its extensive fest circuit has included Hot Docs, DOXA, Mountainfilm at Telluride, AFI Docs, Edinburgh, Traverse City, Melbourne, Camden, Reykjavik, Antenna, and Abu Dhabi.
Congo’s Virunga National Park is a breathtakingly beautiful UNESCO World Heritage site that serves as a sanctuary for the world’s dwindling population of mountain gorillas, not to mention a rich diversity of other fauna and flora. Charged with overseeing this national treasure are Belgian park warden Emmanuel de Merode and his deputy, Rodrigue Mugaruka Katembo, dedicated to protecting the wildlife from poachers, and increasingly concerned by the presence of armed guerrilla fighters M23, who threaten to reignite civil war. Joining them at the center of von Einsiedel’s film are Andre Bauma, a caretaker of the park’s endangered gorillas, and Melanie Gouby, an intrepid French journalist whose undercover work here lends the doc some of its most enraging moments. As is soon revealed, the park, and this quartet, are threatened by a far more dangerous foe – the oil industry. British company SOCO International is deadset on exploiting Virunga for its oil deposits, and is willing to partner with M23 to clear out the park of anyone that stands in their way. Expertly melding elements of social issue doc, investigative journalism, and thriller, von Einsiedel crafts a compelling, vital exposé of corporate greed and environmental disregard.