• Virunga (2014) - Orlando Von Einsiedel

    [… Watch VIRUNGA …]

    “Director Orlando von Einsiedel set out to chronicle the day-to-day dangers the rangers face in Virunga National Park, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He’s on the ground with them when they track down poachers and when they come upon gruesome evidence of the poachers’ merciless work. With the help of a young French journalist, he surreptitiously documents a chain of bribes involving a British company with designs on oil reserves in the park, a World Heritage Site. And he’s right in the middle of it — “it” being a war zone — when a military rebellion devastates the country’s eastern region.” (Sheri Linden, LA Times, November 6, 2014)

    virunga-army“Using hidden cameras and the invaluable assistance of the fearless French journalist Melanie Gouby, Mr. von Einsiedel mixes extraordinary footage of rebel tanks and clandestine palm-greasing with lush panoramas of serene wildlife. Villains, it seems, are everywhere, but it’s the film’s heroes who stick in the mind: Andre Bauma, the gentle ranger who would die to protect the orphaned gorillas in his care; Emmanuel de Merode, the park’s soft-spoken Belgian warden, whose astonishing courage calms everyone around him; and Rodrigue Katembo, a section chief trying to gather evidence of illegal oil company activities.” (Jeannette Catsoulis, New York Times, November 6, 2014)

    virungadanger_ape5_423421“The most effective device in the whole piece are the undercover tapes recorded by park ranger Rodrigue and French journalist Melanie, tapes that demonstrate just how far the situation has escalated and how high the stakes are. One bit of footage shows Melanie speaking with an exec from SOCO, who says with a straight face: “This continent needs to be recolonized. They can’t govern themselves. They’re like children.” Moments like these, juxtaposed with images of SOCO execs shaking hands with Congolese political leaders, seem to echo past histories.”(Zeba Blay, Indiewire, November 6, 2014)

    virunga-619x400“Virunga comes to us under the aegis of Netflix, which has more data than anyone else on just how far viewers actually make it into movies. Perhaps that’s why, after a thumbnail of Congo history, Virunga offers so much life and beauty: There’s the usual nature-doc wilderness photography, much of it grand, but also glorious time with gorillas who seem to consider park rangers something like family. The fights Virunga documents couldn’t feel more urgent. This is one of the year’s most compelling and important films.” (Alan Scherstuhl, The Village Voice, November 5, 2014)