Orlando von Einsiedel: Virunga

Svetlana and Zoran Popovic, directors of the Magnificent7 Festival in Belgrade presents the Oscar-nominated ”Virunga” that will be screened January 31 at the festival. The text also includes words from the director:

Depicting the best and the worst in human nature, Orlando von Einsiedel’s devastating documentary “Virunga” wrenches a startlingly lucid narrative from a sickening web of bribery, corruption and violence.

The setting is the magnificent — and protected — Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, home to many of the world’s last mountain gorillas and the region’s best hope for economic stability. In a country already weakened by a tumultuously bloody history, that hope became even more fragile with the 2010 discovery of oil beneath Lake Edward and the arrival of a British petroleum company, SOCO International. As multiple forces collided for control of the park — including a powerful rebel group seeking a percentage of oil profits — Orlando von Einsiedel and his crew members found themselves caught in a literal war between conservation and exploitation.

Using hidden cameras and the invaluable assistance of the fearless French journalist Mélanie Gouby, the director and the experienced editor, Masahiro Hirakubo, combine extraordinary footage of rebel tanks and clandestine palm-greasing with lush panoramas of serene wildlife. This is the film about true heroes: the gentle ranger who would die to protect the orphaned gorillas in his care; the park’s soft-spoken Belgian warden, whose astonishing courage calms everyone around him; a section chief trying to gather evidence of illegal oil company activities.

Director’s Word: “Virunga” became a film about the cycle of violence and foreign interference that’s beleaguered Congo for the past 150 years and a film about arguably the most important conservation battle happening in the world at the moment. That said, I do believe that “Virunga” is still the ultimately uplifting and inspiring story I originally set out to make, charting how the dedication and integrity of a few African heroes can challenge powerful business interests and seemingly bottomless human greed. If Virunga National Park – Africa’s oldest national park and home to the world’s last mountain gorillas – falls in the face of shadowy business interests, we are effectively saying that nowhere on our planet is off limits to human greed. It’s for this simple reason that all of us have to make sure Virunga is protected.

Great Britain, 2014, 92 mins.

virungamovie.com

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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