Virunga the Movie

Celebrity Activism, media and the good cause conserning Virunga the Movie

Saturday morning on the front page of Norway`s biggest newspaper Aftenposten, the main story was that Leonardo DiCaprio fights for mountain gorillas. Finally the documentary Virunga the Movie gets the attention it deserves in the newspaper, I thought, and flicked quickly to read the entire article. But there was no article about the Virunga the Movie and the vulnerable situation of mountain gorillas in Congo. No, there was an article about celebrity activism!

Baby fjellgorilla i Bwindi.
Baby mountain gorilla in Bwindi.

Last week many of us have tried to bring attention to the documentary Virunga the Movie through social media. The film is about the park’s forest guards who risk their lives every day in their efforts to protect the park and the endangered mountain gorillas. The British oil company Soco has got the permission to search for oil in Virunga, one of the most species-rich areas in the world, which are also listed on UNESCO World Heritage List. Soco`s activities have increased tensions in the area and the national park is now more exposed than ever.

Celebrity Activism is a growing phenomenon, and it can be debatable as to what extent a celebrity can promote the good cause. In that sense, the article by Helle Skjervold is in its place. But why do so many people working with charity, voluntarism and other great causes feel forced to use celebrities to reveal their message? Well, it is because the media rarely writes about a case without being able to tilt it on its own celebrity-fixated manner. So here we have the familiar problem: Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Leonardo DiCaprio supports a good cause and it’s good. But it is a pity for Virunga National Park if DiCaprio gets all the attention. Media have a choice. Media can choose to what extent they want to focus on DiCaprio and the sad thing is that they choose to only focus on DiCaprio. The serious situation in Virunga is not communicated to the readers. I think that’s sad.

The documentary Virunga the Movie is a powerful film that clearly documents how money and power corrupts and how humans and animals come in last row. Congo is marked by war and in areas bordering Uganda and Rwanda rebel groups are fighting against government forces. In the midst of this conflict you will still find courageous people who see it as their mission in life to fight for the park’s 200 Mountain Gorillas. Overall it’s only 800 mountain gorillas left in the world and they are in Congo, Rwanda and Uganda, the three countries share the mountain area between themselves.

Vår lille vennegruppe sammen med parkvoktere og sporfinnere i Bwindi.
Our group of friends together with park rangers and trackers in Bwindi.

I have been in the area, on the Uganda side in Bwindi National Park. For many years I dreamt of seeing a mountain gorilla in the wild. The dream became a reality thanks to skilled rangers who took us out in the rainforest just a few hundred meters from the border with Congo. We sat quietly in the tall grass for 1 hour and enjoyed a small mountain gorilla family in action. This gave me a memory for life. Time stood still and I felt how it all fits together and how important all species are. Our relationship with animals and nature tells a lot about our ability to humanity. Read more in this blog post:

I have traveled a quite a lot in Africa and this border area is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. The landscape with its many volcanoes, lakes and lush forested hills takes your breath away. It just cannot be destroyed! We must fight for this area, no matter in which of the three countries it is in, so that the area remain beneficial to humans and wildlife. We must support the brave and skilled game wardens that dedicate their lives to work in the national parks to the benefit to us all.

In Uganda and Rwanda carefully development of tourism have proved to be positive for both humans and animals in the area. Much can be done even better, but the number of mountain gorillas in these two countries is rising slowly and is hopefully a proof that it is goes in the right direction. But in Congo, the situation is critical. Both humans and animals suffer because of conflicts that regularly force people to flee. War affects people’s lives and women are particularly vulnerable, rape is a normal part of warfare in this area.

Virunga the Movie focuses on issues that concern us all, whether it is Leonardo DiCaprio that fronts it or not. I therefore hope that Norwegian Media will come back with a better coverage of the case itself and not just fall into the same trap as they criticize in Saturday’s story about celebrity activism.

The documentary Virunga is a great movie; it is tragic, touching, heartbreaking and important. Watch it and judge for yourself and remember it is not fiction; it is reality, happening here and now.

More Information about Virunga the Movie:

Mountain gorilla in Bwindi. Virunga the Movie.
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  • Thank you so much for sharing this. I have never heard about Virunga, and sounds like something we should all watch and be conscious about. I went to their fb page and looking forward to watch the movie.

  • I get what you mean about celebs hogging all the limelight and the cause takes a backseat. But maybe if we found a way for celebs to actually get involved in creating awareness through docus and such (because lets face, nobody’s paying media for a docu)

  • Why are we wasting time and money and resources drilling for oil when we need to find a sustainable source anyway?

    It is such a shame when the media decides to focus on the celebrity instead of the cause…. but that is, alas, what people want to read apparently. How else will they sell papers (there really needs to be a sarcasm font)? Hopefully it will get the message across

  • It is obvious you are passionate about what’s happening in Congo. I can’t understand why any company is getting a permission to searhc for oil or whatever else in a UNESCO site… It’s great having people like you opening the eyes of many others who can not know what’s happening on the other side of the globe. I hope everything turn out the best way possible.

  • It is so sad that really important issues like this one come unnoticed in the media.
    Well done you guys, thank you for your work in creating awareness for these marvelous creatures!

  • I hope all media outlets of the world expose this, and not only because an actor is behind it. Unfortunately, the media doesn’t give enough attention to what issues need the most light.

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