The Curt Critic featured in the Wisconsin State Journal

The Curt Critic in the news: This recent Wisconsin State Journal article is validation that Liz Zélandais' quest to see all 53 Oscar-nominated films for 2013 is a fascinating enterprise worthy of public interest, rather than merely nuts.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Virunga - 2015 Oscar Nominee for Best Documentary

Heartbreaking, world-impacting, hopeful. It's what is happening now, as you read these words. Which way will it go?

I spent three days putting off watching Virunga, dreading what I would have to watch, what painful emotions I might experience. Congo. Virunga Park, home to 200 of the remaining mountain gorillas and other fading wildlife species—protected by the country's laws, which are enforced by its rangers who frequently die in the line of duty. Corrupt government officials, easily swayed by encroaching international oil interests. Civil war. Rebel groups, more heavily armed than the Congolese army, under the sway of Big Oil. Innocent residents, wanting to maintain clean lakes they depend on for their livelihood, their lives determined—and often torn apartby these shifting political winds.

It took me another three days to watch this movie—a little each dayjust to build emotional fortitude. Virunga richly deserves its nomination, based on its premise, cinematography, and documentary standards. It introduces a country and individuals of beauty, integrity, and heart. It also builds a very real fear of what the influence of oil, the promise of money, and sell-out corruption will wreak on all of this. The thought of what harm may occur is heartbreaking, but it's not just "them". It's us. If Virunga goes, so goes the world.

Maybe by now you get the idea—this is not an easy movie to watch. As difficult as it was, it, fortunately, was not as wrenching as I had anticipated. It ends on a hopeful note, but it clearly conveys its message.

It is worth every moment it takes to watch (or that you spend working up the courage to watch it), every uncomfortable moment it makes you squirm or cry, and every decision it elicits that you can and will make a difference for Virunga, for the Congo, and for the world we all share. 

Notes of interest:
  • Executive producer: Leonardo DiCaprio
  • At the January 31, 2015 screening of Virunga at the New York Museum of Art and Design, Bill Clinton made a surprise appearance.
  • French investigative journalist, Melanie Gouby, figures prominently in the movie, even going undercover. Her website is here. She is fearless, kick-ass, skilled, and wicked smart.

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