Barry Jenkins and Leonardo DiCaprio are teaming up to adapt one of the most acclaimed documentaries in recent history into a feature film for Netflix.
The duo is joining forces to adapt “Virunga,” the 2014 documentary about the battle to save the Congo’s mountain gorilla population. Jenkins will write the film, while DiCaprio will produce through his Appian Way production company. Phillip Watson also will produce via Appian Way, while Joanna Natasegara will produce for Violet Films. Jennifer Davisson will also serve as a producer and Orlando von Einsiedel, who directed the original documentary, will executive produce.
Other details about the upcoming film, including a prospective release date, are under wraps. That’s unlikely to blunt the excitement for the project, given Jenkins, DiCaprio, and Einsiedel’s pedigrees and the quality of the 2014 documentary. “Virunga” immediately turned heads when it premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2014 and went on to win several awards, including a Peabody Award, after Netflix acquired the rights.
IndieWire’s Eric Kohn lauded “Virunga” in his A- review in 2014 and noted that the film delicately balanced its drama with its impassioned call to action. “Orlando von Einsiedel’s stirring documentary ‘Virguna’ gets personal: Hordes of mourners encircle the grave site for a fallen park ranger, the result of ongoing tensions between the forces tasked with protecting the park under mounting pressure in recent years,” Kohn wrote in his review. “While it has an activist purpose in common with many social issue documentaries of its ilk, ‘Virunga’ stands out by constantly folding its unsettling content into an intimate drama that doesn’t take the high risk scenario for granted. The movie works on its own terms even as it functions as a first-rate call to action.”
Jenkins has been plenty busy in Hollywood in the years following 2016’s universally beloved “Moonlight.” Jenkins directed and wrote 2018’s “If Beale Street Could Talk,” wrote “Charm City Kings,” and wrote the upcoming “Flint Strong,” and will direct, write, and executive produce the upcoming “The Underground Railroad” TV series for Amazon Prime Video. As for DiCaprio, the “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” star produced recent films such as “Robin Hood” and “Richard Jewell.”
Deadline was first to report on the news that Jenkins and DiCaprio would be working together on the “Virunga” adaption.
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