‘Virunga’ Review: A Shocking and Thrilling Film About Africa’s First National Park

Virunga Film

Tribeca Film Festival

Virunga National Park is a place like no other on earth. Its history, its biodiversity and its overwhelming beauty distinguish it from everywhere else in the entire continent of Africa. Yet these constant, long-standing resources are being threatened. Virunga, a new documentary by London-based filmmaker Orlando von Einsiedel, is a breakneck tour of recent developments in the park. This place is not only a physical treasure but the epicenter of an almost unbelievable 21st century geopolitical earthquake.

To keep this enormous story within the realm of comprehension, Von Einsiedel isolates a few major characters. There’s Emmanuel de Merode, the Belgian warden of the park who has been appointed by the Congolese government. Beneath him is Rodrigue, a local lieutenant who believes just as strongly in the protection of Virunga. Such faith is important. Between poachers and the all-too-recently concluded civil war a total of 130 guards have been killed over the years. The danger persists, and Von Einsiedel follows Rodrigue on armed patrols through the forest and the grassland. If there is a literal front line in the fight to preserve the environment, it is here.

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