Virunga Documentary Review
by Cory Ruiz
(Chino Hills, CA)
The film Virunga documents a group of people desperately trying to protect the world’s last remaining mountain gorillas. Virunga is a national park located in the eastern part of the democratic republic of the Congo.
The national park is designated as UNESCO World Heritage site, a location that sustains the majestic mountain gorillas and a wide range of biodiversity. The national park and its inhabitants very existence is threatened when it’s discovered that the park is sitting on top of vast oil deposits.
The struggle between the oil companies and the forest rangers escalates as the oil companies exploit the conflict between local rebel militias and government. This film depicts the harsh realities activist and forest rangers must go through in their ethical pursuit for preservation.
The documentarians do an excellent job at amercing the audience in the conflicts of the Congo as a whole.
Initially presenting the ranger’s daily task of tracking and stopping poachers within the park, the film gains momentum as the odds are continuously stacked against the activist. The oil company SOCO uses bribery, intimidation and politics to try and further their goal.
It was made very clear that if SOCO succeeded and was able to begin drilling within the national park, other parks would soon follow and fold under the pressure as well. The endangered mountain gorillas are a focal point of the national parks existence. An animal that can only exist in the wild their numbers have dwindled down to a few hundred because of relentless poaching.
The process of killing the older mountain gorillas so poachers can capture and sell the babies is horrific and one of the main battles the rangers face.
With such a high importance being put on the preservation of the park for the endangered gorillas, they become a target.
It’s satisfying to discover that after the documentaries release, a petition that the WWF started against the oil company SOCO had succeeded by gaining over 750,000.00 signatures. The company was banned from drilling in national parks and had to keep out of UNESCO World Heritage sites.
This documentary is a great example of what can be accomplished with diligent teamwork and persistence in the face of overwhelming odds.