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As I watched Virunga the other day, I couldn’t stop crying.

The Oscar-nominated documentary, which is now streaming on Netflix, features the very best and very worst of humanity — and both will bring you to tears.

Director Orlando von Einsiedel follows the deadly conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the M23 rebels have declared war and a British oil company is determined to get to the resources they are convinced are waiting under the land in Virunga National Park, Africa’s oldest national park and home to the last of the world’s mountain gorillas.

“Who gives a fuck about a fucking monkey?” laughs one of the oil men. The callousness and crudeness of his comment is so ugly and disturbing, it feels personal and will cut to the core of anyone who has an ounce of compassion. This cavalier attitude and complete disregard for nature is the reason there are only 800 mountain gorillas left on the planet.


Thankfully, there are also people who do care enough to try to keep these magnificent animals safe. In fact, they care so deeply that 130 rangers have already died protecting Virunga, and the movie is dedicated to the memory of those guardians of nature who gave their lives to keep the gorillas from extinction.

Virunga 2

Virunga begins with the horrifying history of the Congo — a history laden with genocide and war and corruption and death.

Although Virunga is a World Heritage Site and oil-related activities are illegal, we see oil company representatives making promises to Virunga employees, bribing them to secretly join their fight in exchange for a piece of the action.

“It’s the money that fuels everything,” explains journalist Melanie Gouby, sadly, and we learn of poachers who kill gorilla parents so they can take their babies to sell.

The graphic images of dead and mutilated gorillas are devastating, but equally heartbreaking is the orphaned gorillas’ fear at the sound of bombs exploding. They huddle together with Andre Bauma, their beloved caregiver (above), curling up into him like little children.

And, to him, they are. “I have my human family and I have this family,” he says, with great affection. The interaction between him and the baby gorillas is precious. They laugh when he tickles them and they hold on to him with love. Anyone who thinks animals don’t have feelings after watching this documentary is deluding themselves to alleviate their own guilt.

“You must justify why you are on this earth,” says Bauma. “Gorillas justify why I am here; they are my life. So if it is about dying, I will die for the gorillas.”

Hopefully, enough people will see this movie and become so outraged that no one will ever have to die for the gorillas — or any other animal — again.

There’s a sobering scene in the movie when Gouby worries that people will read her article about what’s going on, agree it’s terrible but just move on.

Let’s not let that happen.

Visit the VirungaMovie.com site to find out how you can help, and learn how to check your investments to make sure you are not inadvertently giving money to companies who are hurting the gorillas.


  1. Wow, I will see it for sure. 800? I thought that was a typo at first…even 8,000 would be too few. Thanks for sharing this Lois.

  2. Madge woods says:

    Just going to watch it now. Breaks up House of Cards binging. I am so sad after these types of movie. I hope it shows hope.

  3. Great cause, so different perspectives, so sad!

  4. Helene Cohen Bludman says:

    I will check out the website and make sure I’m not contributing to a company that exploits these gorgeous creatures, but I think I’ll pass on seeing the movie. I just can’t watch the cruelty.

    • Lois Alter Mark says:

      I hear you, Helene. The park rangers, though, definitely give you hope for humanity (and the gorillas).

  5. I’m with Helene a million percent. Checking out the website is so important, but I’ll have to pass on the movie. I can’t stay cruelty of any kind. But to animals? Unconscionable acts make my blood boil. Thank you for bringing this to my attention.

    P.S. These animals are absolutely gorgeous.

  6. Sometimes I think we are just doomed, that the human race will never learn. Who cares about a monkey? We all should.

  7. Do I even have more tears to shed? It sounds so moving.

  8. This is so sad. I do love that you close with making sure that we are doing the right thing and not supporting companies that threaten life. Thank you for sharing your heart and your passion Lois!

  9. My heart is broken just reading about this movie, I don’t think I can ever watch it, animal movies just kill me. But I will happily support the cause and check out my investments!

  10. Robin (Masshole Mommy) says:

    This is the first I’ve heard of it. I will have to check it out.

  11. The trailer looks amazing. I will be sure to watch this. It’s heartbreaking but so important to make sure we are all doing the right thing by these and all creatures. I’m sharing this all over! I adore these animals. Thanks much for bringing this to light!

  12. I have to admit I’m not sure I could watch this it sounds like an amazing film highlighting an important cause though.

  13. Wow. Such an important issue. we never realize what we have until its gone, right? Hopefully we can make a difference.

  14. I have Netflix, this looks very educational and informative. I will have to look for it.

  15. Wow! This is going to be a tough film to watch, but I’m going to. How horrible. And 800 mountain gorillas is an insane amount for the entire planet. Horrible. Gotta check the site. Thank you for this eye-opener, Lois.

  16. I will definitely be checking my investments. This is so heartbreaking, I can’t imagine anyone actually willing to just hurt these poor creatures.

  17. I think watching this would bring me to my knees. I adore gorillas, and would be so upset to see any harm done to them. Heartbreaking beyond words.

  18. I think I’ll give this a watch tonight, I have heard a lot about this movie!

  19. WOW. Hate to cry but need to watch. I’ll check out the website too.

  20. This is so tragic. Hopefully the exposure will turn things around like it’s done for other animals.

  21. Wow. 800? I’m speechless. I haven’t ever heard of this is going to check Canadian Netflix and see if its there. How sad!

  22. Catherine S says:

    Thanks for bring awareness to this. I will be sure I check out the website.

  23. These are such hard shows to watch. Breaks my heart.

  24. I wasn’t familiar with this documentary, but what an eye opener. I cannot believe how human greed can always win out over what’s right.

  25. What a powerful story. So compelling and true! Tears well shed I’d say

  26. Unfortunately because poverty and the income disparity is so great, so many people are easily bribed. Also, a lot of movements are spoken of and no action taken. I’ll talk to my husband tonight to make sure we aren’t supporting those companies either.

  27. This kind of thing infuriates me. Only 800?? WTH is wrong with people and the companies involved. Makes my blood boil!

  28. I was just having this conversation with my students recently. We need to teach the younger generation to take care of our planet and its creatures.

  29. Oh my gosh. I can’t watch it. If a movie is fiction and it’s sad I don’t like to watch, if it’s real and sad like this, I just can’t…no matter how good it is… #weakheart

  30. I am totally shocked that there are only 800 left. I think I’m going to add this to my queue to watch over the weekend. Thank you for sharing it with us today.

  31. I saw this available on Netflix, but haven’t watched it yet. I think I am going to do that today.

  32. So touching. I wish I could watch this too.

  33. I saw the trailer for this documentary and cannot wait to watch it. I will check out the website.

  34. That is just tragic that there are only 800 gorillas left. That makes me so sad.

  35. It’s terrible how money talks and how people have become so uncaring about other living beings — human or animal. It does not speak well of humanity at all.

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