Monday, February 16, 2015

Oscar Documentary: Virunga (Capsule Review)

Directed by Orlando von Einsiedel
Released November 7, 2014

For a while, I couldn’t remember if this film was about gorillas or guerillas. It turns out that it’s the former, and features park rangers in the Congo who protect the gorilla population while the rest of the world tries to mine for oil and destroy natural resources. This nominee for Best Documentary at the Oscars this year begins as a serious chronicle of the Congo and how it developed, transitioning into an affirming story of those who defend the gorillas against the invading oil interests. Learning about the pressure tactics used by malicious forces to sway the people in the area eventually turns to outright violence, making the film seem more like a narrative feature in which tension builds and explodes into drama. French journalist Melanie Gouby is an effective figure to watch as she experiences this third-world conflict firsthand, and interviews with locals demonstrate the mentality of a people living in constant danger. As an exposé designed to bring attention to its subject matter, this film succeeds. As a gripping documentary, it wanes back and forth from truly effective to less enticing. It’s hard not to love the gorillas, of course, and to sympathize with the preservation of a national park. Stream it instantly on Netflix to judge for yourself!


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