Laura Poitras' CitizenFour seems to be the front-runner for the best documentary Oscar, but if enough Academy members see VIRUNGA, the documentary about the attempt to save the Congo's endangered Mountain Gorilla population, I would not be surprised to see this unusual doc take away the prize. Not that the film about Edward Snowden is not hugely important and timely, particularly where whistleblowers and the power of an ever-encroaching govern-ment is concerned. But Virunga is just as timely in a worldwide/envi-ronmental manner, while also addressing concerns such as the ever-sleazy oil companies (this time it's SOCO), the plight of Africa, the shame of mercenaries and how to buy off the dirt-poor populace so that a crap corporation can do whatever it likes in a supposedly untouchable national park.
Orlando von Einsiedel (shown at right), the film makes up in tension and on-the-spot filming what it lacks in spit and polish. It introduces us to quite a cast of characters -- from the kindly and dedicated gorilla caretakers to a young French journalist, from that despicable oil company to the "rebels" called M23 who con-stantly threaten and sometimes kill the popu-lace, from the Belgian colonel in charge of the small contingent of soldiers that provide the only protection for Virunga, the titular park that houses the gorillas and other wildlife.
Meanwhile, the movie, after a very limited theatrical release last year, is available for streaming now on Netflix and perhaps elsewhere, too.