I have always been interested in learning about life.

I have also always enjoyed documentaries.

You know the saying, you have to see it to believe it, well, that is exactly why documentaries are interesting to me. If I want to learn about a part of the world I have never been to or a ritual that I have never experienced, I want to see it (and traveling isn’t usually an option).

My OoMH assigned blog post this week is to watch a documentary and report what I discover. I will be mainly focusing on the 3 questions that my professor provided, but I will, of course, add anything I seem to think is especially interesting.

So shall we begin? 




More detail?

“In the forested depths of eastern Congo lies Virunga National Park, one of the most bio-diverse places on Earth and home to the planet’s last remaining mountain gorillas. In this wild, but enchanted environment, a small and embattled team of park rangers – including an ex-child soldier turned ranger, a caretaker of orphan gorillas and a dedicated conservationist – protect this UNESCO world heritage site from armed militia, poachers and the dark forces struggling to control Congo’s rich natural resources. When the newly formed M23 rebel group declares war, a new conflict threatens the lives and stability of everyone and everything they’ve worked so hard to protect, with the filmmakers and the film’s participants caught in the crossfire.”


What are the major elements of storytelling used in the documentary?

Multiple Perspectives/Interviews: This documentary doesn’t seem to focus on one particular person, nor is it narrated by one main speaker. Instead, you are transported inside the culture of the Congo. You hear directly from the people, reporters, investors and militias, as well as those sworn protectors of the Guerillas. This approach makes the story feel a bit more authentic, but it does not really flow as well as, say, a BBC documentary like Blue Planet–which is good and bad at the same time.

News Interviews: The documentary was frequented with what seemed like news interviews to me. These interviews were used to show how little the big companies like SOCO International (an oil company) cared about the Congo and Virunga National Park. When the interviews were over, the viewers had formed a common enemy with the makers of the documentary and were only that much more interested in finishing the documentary and even googling SOCO International to find out more (at least according to my friends that had seen it).


How does the filmmaker draw you in? I mean, really draw you in? 

Music: As you transition to a heartwarming scene the music switches to an upbeat and exciting style. The heart breaking scenes, on the other hand, feature slow and draining music styles. It is an obvious attempt at highlighting the different moods of the film but it is also an effective one.

Lighting/Contrast: Approaching the lighting much like the music, sad scenes features relatively subdued and dim lighting. I would say that the happy moments of this film were celebrated with very light and bright lighting, but there really were not many happy moments. The M23 and other rebel groups strike fear in everyone living in the area. This is something that the documentary really shines light on. With that said, there were moments of hopefulness and they were somewhat more light than those sad scenes.

Ending Text: Looking over the beautiful landscape of the Congo, the documentary ended with a few short lines of text describing what happened to a few of the Park Rangers. I don’t want to go into too much detail, but what I can say is that this was an effective way to end the documentary. It did a great job illustrating the seemingly corrupt nature of SOCO and how it alters the lives of the residents who just want to see their park survive.

Uncovering the Reality: The director does an incredible job of uncovering the truth behind how this part of the world lives. One second he will be on the battle field filming the constant struggle between poachers and protectors, the next he will be outside of town filming a memorial service for an unlucky Guerilla. You witness so much of the really goings-on that you feel much more connected to the people going through these horrors.

What idea(s) do you have to incorporate into your next presentation, after watching this film? 

Look at things from the perspective of the audience, not your own: Virunga was so well put together that it seemed to answer every question that I had when watching it. I didn’t get bored while watching either. Why? Because they included incredibly well-captured shots of the areas and people that they were describing. Some pictures/videos is worth a million words. At certain points they would just rely on the image on the screen to cause a reaction. I recall two scenes rather vividly. One was of a Guerrilla and his caretaker. You could almost feel the bond between the two. The other was when the group of townspeople were carrying a dead guerrilla after he had been attacked by poachers.

Let other people speak for you: Similar to the idea that a picture is worth a million words, letting an expert or someone that experienced something firsthand talk is worth a couple million. Letting someone else speak, whether it is by playing a video or just breaking up your presentation with a few other people, can be incredibly important. I believe that was a big part of the reason why I never got distracted or bored throughout the entire film.

Rating? Opinion? 

Well, I have to say, Virunga was a rather impressive documentary. It was the right amount of information with the right amount of emotion. I also enjoyed it particularly just because the Congo is a topic that has been overlooked for too long. There are multiple documentaries on cooking, animals, and hunting (and even all 3 together) yet this was the first documentary about the endangered guerrillas and threatened people of the Congo that I have ever seen.

4.5/5 – Well Done. Some minor quality issues but nothing too crazy.

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Here are a few other documentaries that are currently on my must-see list:


  • Encounters at the End of the World
  • Cave of Forgotten Dreams
  • Jiro Dreams of Sushi
  • The Blue Planet
  • Life
  • Planet Earth
  • The True Cost
  • Blackfish
  • Fed Up
  • The Act of Killing
  • Cowspiracy
  • Exit Through the Gift Shop