Deadline has reported that Oscar winners Barry Jenkins and Leonardo DiCaprio are working together on an adaptation of the 2014 documentary Virunga for Netflix.
One of the most acclaimed documentaries of recent years and boasting a 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes, Virunga follows the efforts of rangers in the Virunga National Park in eastern Congo to protect the local gorilla population. The documentary premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival six years ago and, following its acquisition by Netflix, won a number of awards. Jenkins has been brought on as the screenwriter for the feature film version. DiCaprio will be a producer, having served as an executive producer on the documentary.
Jenkins is best known as the director and writer of Moonlight, winner of three Oscars at the 89th Academy Awards and commonly cited as one of the best films of the last decade. More recently he wrote and directed an adaptation of James Baldwin’s 1974 novel If Beale Street Could Talk, and worked alongside Kirk Sullivan and Chris Boyd on this year’s Charm City Kings. He is also directing, writing and executive producing Amazon Prime’s new series The Underground Railroad, and is set to direct a biopic about dancer Alvin Ailey. Meanwhile, Leonardo DiCaprio is set to star in Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon.
Phillip Watson, from DiCaprio’s production company Appian Way, will also act as a producer for the film. They will be joined by Joanna Natasegara from Violet Films, who produced the original documentary and more recently The Edge of Democracy. Jennifer Davisson, producer on The Revenant and Robin Hood, will also be on board for the project. Meanwhile, the director of the original documentary – Orlando von Einsiedel – will serve as an executive producer.
Aside from this, details of the film – including a release date and the director – are being kept under wraps. More information potentially could be released once film production resumes on a larger scale following the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, the prospect of Jenkins and DiCaprio working together will ensure that interest in Virunga will remain high until more information comes out.
Words by James Hanton