It has all the trappings of a thriller, but, like The Cove, it's a real-life documentary that exposes the plight of one of the planet's most beloved and intelligent animals. The film is called Virunga, and the animals are the majestic mountain gorillas.
On one side, a British energy corporation called Soco bribes government officials in the war-torn Congo so that it can explore for oil in a protected national park called Virunga. On the other side are locals who risk – and often lose – their lives to protect the park, which is their lifeline. Caught in the crossfire are some of Africa's last remaining mountain gorillas.
Because tourists are willing to spend hundreds of dollars a day to see them, gorillas, along with many other animals in the park, are a priceless renewable resource for the communities around Virunga. But Soco and the officials they bribe appear willing to destroy the park to make a quick buck off of a finite amount of oil.
Among the many extraordinarily people in the film is a French journalist, who, wearing a hidden camera, films Soco executives making bribes and threatening those who oppose oil exploration in the park. In a particularly jarring moment, a member of the British entourage said, "I can't believe that people are protecting the park just for monkeys. Who cares about fucking monkeys?"
The world's last 950 mountain gorillas live in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda. In spite of sporadic civil unrest, gorilla tourism is returning to the Congo. And it is thriving in Rwanda and Uganda. In this video, wild gorillas wander onto the grounds of a tourist lodge in Uganda and give an unsuspecting guest the encounter of a lifetime.
To find out how you can help save the remaining mountain gorillas, please visit Virunga Movie, which is now available on Netflix.