The last remaining natural habitat of the mountain gorilla, VIRUNGA is Congo’s lush, tourism-dependent, 3,000-square-mile national park.
It also lies above massive oil reserves, which a British company has the rights to exploit.
Orlando von Einsiedel’s remarkable, beautifully photographed documentary examines the conflicting interests at work here, focusing principally on the people who are trying to save the gorillas, and indeed the dwindling numbers of elephants, from poachers while a bitter civil war rages all around them.
By showing the human faces of those concerned – be they the heavily armed rangers charged with protecting the endangered animals, or the oil company men who bribe them to abandon their duties – Einsiedel illustrates how the stark realities of third-world impoverishment clash with a resource-hungry advanced society.
Ultimately, however, VIRUNGA’s message is one of muted hope.