A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Promotes the importance of protecting the planet's wildlife. Reveals the plight of the people in the villages of the Eastern Congo and the growing dangers to its natural environment, specifically Virunga National Park by invoking empathy. Juxtaposes human rights and animal rights against the greed and corruption of corporations and profiteers who would exploit the world's natural resources.
Positive Role Models
Chronicles true heroes of our times. Focuses on their courage, commitment, unselfishness, compassion, and steadfastness. All are models of proactive people who have chosen to make activism their way of life. Primary villain is SOCO, a British oil-producing corporation, which clearly intends to exploit Eastern Congo's natural resources; secondary villains are those who succumb to bribery and/or choose to create chaos in already unstable country.
Violence & Scariness
Filmmakers are on the scene when actual violence erupts. Heartbreaking and disturbing footage includes: a mass exodus of people forced to evacuate their villages as the sounds of gunfire get ever closer; shots of animals killed and mutilated by poachers; visuals of children seriously wounded by acts of war; real-life gunfire and explosions as rebels overtake the national park; the terror and devastation that accompanies that invasion; two funerals during which real grief is evident.
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One scene contains dozens of "f--k," in a variety of forms. A virulent racist is heard talking about the native Congolese -- for example, their "childlike" nature and supposed inability to govern themselves.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Virunga is a hard-hitting documentary that unsparingly reveals the recent turbulent, brutal events in Virunga National Park, Eastern Congo. Four heroic individuals, determined to save the native population, wildlife, and precious ecosystem in this mineral-rich area, face high-powered villains who wish to exploit its resources at any cost. Not a retelling of past history, the fimmaking crew was in Virunga photographing what was taking place. So the lifeless and wounded bodies of the victims (both human and animal) are shown in the moment. The terror on the faces of the innocents forced to evacuate their homes is real; the gunfire is real; the explosions are real. Aided by hidden cameras, viewers see the callous, paternalistic, and often racist attempts by rebels and corporate interests to "buy" those who protect the park. One scene contains a litany of obscenities, including all forms of "f--k." An important but disturbing and intense film, it's for mature teens only. Watching with adult family members is recommended. In French, Swahili, and English, subtitled when necessary. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
The violent and corrupt morass of Congo is at the heart of this outstanding film. What was planned as documentation becomes actual war footage. The filmmakers become inadvertent heroes themselves as they risk all to film and report the tragedy and heroism taking place before their eyes. Exceptional editing, photography, in-depth interviews, and music contribute to the viewers' understanding of these events. Sequences intercutting the telegenic gorillas with their caregiver; the hurried preparations for the onslaught; and then the war itself are powerful and heartbreaking. The facts are undisputable as reported in this important film. Virunga is not to be missed by those who appreciate terrific filmmaking as a way to dispense critical information.
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