Dan O'Neill 2015-01-02 2 min read

I was on a bit of a Netflix binge when I mentioned on twitter that I really enjoyed the documentary “Blackfish”. Someone I follow on twitter (@diarmuid_r) recommended I check out another documentary that’s currently on Netflix - Virunga. A documentary about the rangers risking their lives guarding mountain gorillas from poachers and armed rebels in Africa’s Virunga National Park.

Diarmuid was absolutely right - it is an amazing film. Powerfully moving, and an insight into something I knew next to nothing about.

I’ve been to Africa, and my time in Kenya and Tanzania’s national parks are some of my best memories. But I knew nothing then about the people than run those parks and nothing about the people that protect the animals within from poachers and other threats. Obviously we’ve all seen devastating pictures of animals after poachers have taken what they need. But I never knew the price the rangers often pay in trying to protect these parks. In Virunga alone, 180 rangers have died protecting Congo’s Mountain Gorillas. So this documentary focuses on them, and their struggle with forces both internal to Congo and external too, in the form of an oil exploration company.

View of the Virunga park from a ranger station

So the documentary starts that way - focusing on the rangers in the park, and in particular poignantly following a ranger named Andre who looks after the parks orphaned mountain Gorillas.

Andre carrying one of the orphaned Mountain Gorillas

Then it starts to document the parks struggle with those who want to explore the park for resources. There’s some really interesting hidden camera interviews that seem to suggest that a lot of money was available for access to the park.

But then the documentary takes a darker turn as civil war comes back to eastern DRC. The park is faced with food shortages and more as the Congolese army face off against the rebel group M23 right on the parks doorstep. Some of the scenes are truly frightening.

War comes to the parks doorstep

I loved the documentary - it might be one of the most powerful documentaries I’ve ever seen. Well worth adding to your Netflix list -

If you want to find out more about the documentary, and the park and the ongoing issues you can do so here: There’s an excellent score from Patrick Jonsson and its shot really beautifully when it can - from Franklin Dow. The Director Orlando von Einsiedel has really put together an amazing film.