Virunga is a well intentioned documentary that will hopefully garner attention for the clashes occurring in the Congo.
The Oscar nominated documentary Virunga explores the conflict for natural resources in the Central African country of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the unintended but deadly consequences for the UNESCO-designated Virunga National Park, a World Heritage Site, caught in the middle of the skirmish.
The documentary, directed and written by Orlando von Einsiedel, says Virunga is about the brave individuals that act as an army to protect the Virunga National Park from poachers. In reality, the film not only explores the protection efforts of the mountain gorillas but the harmful effects of civil unrest on the DRC. Along with journalist Melanie Gouby, von Einsiedel’s Virunga goes undercover to reveal the negligent motives of British oil company SOCO International.
As a documentary, Virunga is interesting, eye-opening and concerning but not necessarily novel nor especially comprehensive. The information relayed to audiences is not from experts or top players in the controversy of the park, wild life or even political landscape. Instead, most of the information highlighted and showcased are simply from first hand experiences as the civil war reignites and from a few key figures who are employed by the Virunga National Park.
Virunga is well intentioned but ultimately slightly faulted documentary. It is informative, but not substantially so. There are plenty of filler shots of babies crying and the beauty of the African landscape but these scenes add no significance. Virunga ends up feeling like a History Channel or National Geographic special – not a bad thing, but not the same caliber as a feature documentary film.
The lack of hindsight and conclusion of the civil siege in the Democratic Republic of the Congo makes for an unstructured film where it appears that the filmmakers were learning the story as they went – leading to a lack of vision and inability to edit the film into a cohesive non-fiction narrative.