When Americans think of national parks, we tend to think of forest land, park rangers, tourists, and possibly Yogi Bear. That is not the vision that comes to mind when watching Virunda. Virunda is the name of a national park in the Congo which is the focus of this documentary. At first glance it would appear that this film is about the efforts of area park rangers to maintain and protect the mountain gorillas that live in the park’s forest. Of course, due to poachers and others trying to exploit animals and the natural resources of the park, these Rangers look like a small militia.

This Academy Award nominated documentary feature combines the plight of these animals with issues related to the civil unrest in the Congo. The official government army is working with various rebel forces including the newest rebel group, M23. Into this mix, add an international oil company which obtained the rights to determine whether there is oil in Lake Edward which is in Virunda National Park. I forgot to mention that there are villages within the park that depend upon the lake for their livelihood. And also that, although the oil company has the government permission to be in the park, it is still a violation of both the laws of the country and international law. If this were a scripted movie, there would be an attractive woman journalist who is investigating the dealings between the corporation and the rebel army – wait, there is.

I really enjoyed this documentary. It was worthy of the nomination.  If it were truly fictional, it would be an enjoyable movie that has action suspense and amusing animal stories. As a documentary, it shows that truth is stranger than fiction.

My verdict: Rent it!


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