Virunga National Park (Joseph King / Flickr)
IES PhD Researcher Esther Marijnen has made waves with her co-authored piece, "Virunga's White Savior Complex: How the Film Distorts the Politics and People of Congo", on the recent film Virunga, which has been published in the prestigious journal Foreign Affairs.
It is easy to see why the Oscar-nominated film Virunga has received such widespread acclaim. Shot in the majestic Virunga National Park, an endangered World Heritage site situated in the conflict-ridden eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, the film draws attention to the threats posed to the park’s wildlife by both the British oil exploration company SOCO International and rebel groups. Consequently, appreciation for the film becomes confounded with support for the noble cause of saving Virunga. But the resulting sense of moral righteousness obscures several serious problems with the documentary: it omits crucial aspects of the violent colonial origins of Virunga, and it marginalizes the voices of the people who live in and around the park. As a result, the film perpetuates racial stereotypes and oversimplifies politics and conflict in Congo... Read more