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Review: Virunga


 A gripping, heart-wrenching suspense documentary telling the tale of the Virunga National Park located on the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the threats of exploitation and poaching which threaten the welfare of the endangered wild animals of the nation.

The documentary's primary focus is on the endangered species of the mountain gorillas where half of the somewhat 900 gorillas said to be left in the world habitat in the park. Poachers target the elephants and the gorillas to sell their valuable parts on the black trade market where they are mostly used for traditional muthi practices.

The documentary begins by taking us back in history through the many war conflicts that have plagued the country for decades. As hope begins to rise for peace and prosperity when peace agreements are reached and the country undergoes its first democratic election in over forty years, the M23 rebel movement once again unsettles the peace in the state and sends thousands of Congolese people fleeing for their lives.

The heart wrenching segment of the documentary is the focus on three of the park rangers who take care of some of the gorillas who have gone through some kind of trauma and are being rehabilitated to later be sent back into the wild. The touching relationship that these rangers have with the gorillas may send one on a emotional ride as the documentary portrays the deep love and affection they both have for each other. We see how the rangers are deeply moved when about ten gorillas are killed in the park and how they give the gorilla what we could even call a dignified funeral as they carry the ridiculously enormous gorillas and sing funeral songs as they go to bury them. We see how the gorillas that are going through rehabilitation are attached to the park rangers as they hold the rangers' hands and seek for attention just as a human toddler would.

Furthermore, the documentary unfolds to reveal the corruption and underhand dealings of a British oil company named SOCO who wants to destroy the park and mine the park lake for oil. The rangers of the park greatly oppose this venture because of the detrimental effect it will have on the park where the wild animals welfare will be at stake, more specifically of the endangered mountain gorillas. It is moving to see how the rangers would risk their own lives in protecting the park as they prepare for the invasion of the M23 rebels who are said to be working with SOCO in overthrowing the park so that it can be mined for the oil.

This investigative documentary takes one on the most moving journey of emotions. Heartfelt sadness for the victims of the war and of the gorillas whose lives have been turned upside down, anger for the underhanded corruption and racist comments made by some of the Western employees of SOCO and disappointment in the natives of Congo who seem to give in letting a western power once again exploit their raw materials for their gain. Orlando Von Einsiedeltruly captures the emotions of the audience as he pleads with the park rangers for the protection of the Virunga National Park.


Nolwazi Gumede is a Fashion obsessed film enthusiast with a lust for the finer things in life.

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The 36th Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) is organised by the Centre for Creative Arts at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (a special project of the Deputy Vice Chancellor of Humanities, Cheryl Potgieter) with support from the National Film and Video Foundation, , KwaZulu-Natal Film Commission, City of Durban, German Embassy, Goethe Institut, Industrial Development Corporation, Gauteng Film Commission, KwaZulu-Natal Department of Arts and Culture and a range of other valued partners.


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