In 1985, Dian Fossey, the researcher and conservationist profiled in the movie Gorillas in the Mist, was murdered in her attempt to protect mountain gorillas from those who wanted to capture them. Today, the 800 remaining mountain gorillas in East Africa are under attack by far more powerful forces, who are exposed in a new documentary film called Virunga.
Mountain gorillas live in the Virunga mountains of Rwanda, Uganda and the politically unstable Democratic Republic of Congo. Virunga, a documentary thriller, chronicles the efforts to protect Congo’s Virunga National Park and its majestic gorillas from civil war and from corporations eager to strip the park of its valuable natural resources.
In the film, we meet “a Belgian conservationist leading the army of park rangers; an ex-child soldier and a young French journalist who covertly films local politicians and international businessmen; and a ranger who has become a surrogate parent to orphaned gorillas.”
Because tourists are willing to spend hundreds of dollars a day to see them, the gorillas themselves are a valuable renewable resource for the people who live around the Virungas. But can the long term benefits of eco-tourism compete with the short term greed of those who are willing to decimate the park to make a quick buck?
On Friday, October 10th, the documentary will receive the Zelda Penzel “Giving Voice to the Voiceless” Award at its premiere in Sag Harbor, at the Hamptons International Film Festival. Penzel, an educator and veteran animal rights activist based in the U.S., has decided to put her money where her heart is by endowing the festival with an annual monetary award presented to a film that “raises public awareness about the moral and ethical treatment and the rights of animals; inspires compassion; and compels social change.”
To find out how you can lend your voice to the gorillas, please see the website for Virunga.