Take a Drink: for funerals of any type
Take a Drink: for poacher activity
Take a Drink: for gorilla hugs
Take a Drink: for oil company promises
Take a Drink: for each damning secret tape
Do a Shot: for straight up briges
Do a Shot: every time you see a hippo- Nature’s homicidal dick
By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) –
When you think of a Park Ranger, you probably think of mountie hats, pick-a-nick baskets, and khaki shorts. In Africa, in particular the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Virunga National Park, a very different image comes to mind…
Go ahead and litter. See what happens.
Virunga follows the courageous park rangers of Virunga National Park as they face down poachers, rebels, and, worst of all, multinational petroleum companies, all in an effort to preserve one of the world’s most beautiful protected habitats, home to the last of the mountain gorillas.
My buddy I watched this with commented that this movie is about “everything you think is happening in Africa, but on camera”. It’s true, as Virunga not only does a spectacular job of showing the many domestic threats that these brave souls face down, from poachers after elephant tusks and equipped with automatic weapons, but also larger, more insidious international companies, in particular Soco International. This company will clearly stop at nothing to get a crack at what might be oil underneath a lake that borders the park, and the filmmakers and some allied, idealistic outsiders even manage to capture the company brazenly offering bribes. Other, more tragic circumstances like a massacre of mountain gorillas that appears to be tantamount to attempted genocide can’t be tied to them, but in whatever case, no gorillas = no Virunga is a math problem several folks have apparently worked out.
The exploitation of the animals in the park isn’t Virunga’s biggest concern, though, and this is where my buddy’s comment comes in. Virunga ties the Congo’s current day problems directly to the exploitation of its natural resources and Western interventions, and if that’s not the story of the entire continent in a nutshell, I don’t know what is. What this documentary shows is that attitude is hardly a thing of the past, Soco is just one of many of its ilk. It doesn’t take much money to leverage local politicians and military forces into assets for the company, and that is one thing that the documentary makes blindingly clear.
A smaller, but no less interesting takeaway from Virunga is just how human-like gorillas really are. The film focuses on one man in particular who is basically playing parent to several orphaned gorillas, and their character and mannerisms will amaze… and make you all the more angry about the clear effort to wipe them off the face of the earth.
Who’s a widdle endangered animal? Yes you are!
The story feels incomplete, and indeed it was, as Park Director Emmanuel de Merode was shot not long after the film’s release. He survived, thankfully, but it just goes to show how there simply is no closure to the myriad problems the Congo, and much of Africa, faces.
One little stylistic issue- Virunga often cuts back to gorillas from events like gunshots in a way that almost feels like a reaction shot. The scenes clearly aren’t actually related, though, which begs the question of why? There are also a couple obvious reenactments that likewise muddy the truth/fiction waters unnecessarily.
Virunga tells the story of both a national park, and a nation, in turmoil, and the brave men that try to protect it as best they can.