Mountain Gorilla in the Virunga National Park. Courtesy of VNP, 2014.

Oscar-nominated ‘Virunga’ highlights crisis of endangered gorillas

January 15, 2015

Oscar-nominated ‘Virunga’ highlights crisis of endangered gorillas

Netflix teamed up with executive producer Leonardo DiCaprio and production company Appian Way on the original documentary film, Virunga, released in theaters in New York and Los Angeles and aired on Netflix. 

The film, directed by Orlando von Einsiedel, is part investigative journalism and part nature documentary, which follows an embattled team of park rangers and the endangered mountain gorillas they protect, as they are caught in the crossfire of poachers, militia and industry in Africa’s oldest national park.

Shortly after its release the film was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Documentary category. The film focuses on the challenges faced by the park’s rangers during the recent M23 conflict and on efforts to protect Virunga from illegal resource extraction.

Among those featured in the film is André Bauma, the chief caregiver for four orphaned gorillas. In one of the most poignant scenes, André declares his willingness to lay down his life to protect the park’s endangered mountain gorilla population.

With more than 130 rangers killed in the line of duty over the last 20 years, André’s sentiments are not idle words.

Ranger Rodrigue Mugaruka Katembo, the warden for the park’s Central Sector, echoes André’s feelings in the film. In several nail-biting scenes, the film shows Rodrigue facing great danger in his efforts to unmask apparently illegal activities that threaten the park.

Park rangers like Rodrigue and Andre – and Chief Warden Emmanuel de Merode, who sustained life threatening gunshot wounds following an ambush on his vehicle last April – are today the face of some 500 rangers that each day face the challenges of protecting Africa’s oldest, most biologically diverse, and most threatened national park.

“Films like Virunga are powerful stories that are a window into the incredible cultural and natural diversity of our world, the forces that are threatening to destroy it, and the people who are fighting to protect it. Partnering with Netflix on this film is an exciting opportunity to inform and inspire individuals to engage on this topic,” said DiCaprio.

Virunga National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, on the border of Uganda and Rwanda. Virunga is Africa’s oldest national park and is also the continent’s most biologically diverse protected area. The park’s 3,000 square miles include forests, savannas, lava plains, swamps, erosion valleys, active volcanoes, and the glaciated peaks of the Rwenzori mountains.

Related News

New documentary “Before The Flood” to air globally on NatGeo on October 30th

Before the Flood presents a riveting account of the dramatic changes now occurring around the world due to climate change, as well as the actions we as individuals and as a society can take to prevent catastrophic disruption of life on our planet.

Leonardo calls for climate action at Mayors summit in Paris

Leonardo addresses Mayors and local leaders gathered in Paris on the importance of switching to renewable energy to tackle the climate crisis.

Leonardo joins artists and public leaders at the Global Citizen Festival

Leonardo joins artists and public figures from around the world to celebrate the adoption of the UN Sustainable Development Goals at the 2015 Global Citizen Festival in Central Park, New York.

Leonardo Addresses the World Economic Forum in Davos

In January, Leonardo DiCaprio attended the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland to receive the prestigious Crystal Award. The award is given to artists and cultural leaders who are helping to address the world’s humanitarian and environmental challenges, including climate change.

Leonardo calls for climate action at Mayors summit in Paris

Leonardo addresses Mayors and local leaders gathered in Paris on the importance of switching to renewable energy to tackle the climate crisis.

Leonardo DiCaprio honored with SAG Foundation’s ‘Actors Inspiration Award’

Leonardo DiCaprio received the nonprofit Screen Actors Guild Foundation’s single “Actors Inspiration Award” at the SAG Foundation 30th Anniversary Celebration on Thursday, November 5th at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills.

Leonardo joins artists and public leaders at the Global Citizen Festival

Leonardo joins artists and public figures from around the world to celebrate the adoption of the UN Sustainable Development Goals at the 2015 Global Citizen Festival in Central Park, New York.

Leonardo and LDF join more than 400 institutions pledging to divest from fossil fuels

Leonardo and the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation announced today they are joining over 400 institutions and 2,000 individuals participating in the pledge Divest-Invest pledge, along with governments and investors from 43 countries.

2nd Annual LDF Gala raises over $40 million

LDF held its annual fundraising gala in St. Tropez raising more than $40 Million to protect Earth’s last wild places and implement solutions to preserve and save the environment.

Leonardo’s new film ‘The Revenant’ set in Canadian wilderness

Leonardo DiCaprio will play the role of Hugh Glass in upcoming film The Revenant, shot entirely with natural light in the remote wilderness of Canada.