Apr 21 - A new film premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival documents the violence in Africa's first national park. Alicia Powell reports.
The Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo is home to some of the world's last mountain gorillas. But a nearly two decades long conflict in the region has left millions of people dead and large areas of territory under rebel control. "Virunga," a documentary directed by Orlando von Einsiedel and currently screening at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, highlights the situation of the park, its endangered mountain gorillas, and the discovery of oil in the first national park created in Africa. Andre Bauma is the park's mountain gorilla caretaker. SOUNDBITE: Andre Bauma, gorilla caretaker, saying (French): "The gorillas are an animal that are incredibly important to me and for all of humanity and its entirety. It's thanks to these gorillas that the Virunga National Park was originally created so therefore this park together with these gorillas is incredibly important to me and for our country as well as the economic importance for our country." The film zeroes in on British oil company Soco International's interest in exploring for oil in the park, while conservation groups say the park should be left alone for wildlife preservation. Einsiedel was able to capture the violence between the army and rebel forces during filming. SOUNDBITE: Orlando von Einsiedel, director, saying (English) "It just happened that while I was there, it happened several different times and if I knew it was definitely coming I would've tried to avoid it because it's incredibly scary. I'm lucky enough that as a foreign journalist filmmaker in that I can sort of nip away and leave but local people have to put up with that and they have done for over 20 years." Virunga National Park was established in 1925 and has been a World Heritage Site since 1979.