Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Jungle Love

Gorillas in the Mist
Director: Michael Apted
Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Bryan Brown, Julie Harris, John Omirah Miluwi
Released: September 23, 1988

Oscar nominations:
Best Actress - Sigourney Weaver (lost to Jodie Foster for The Accused)
Best Adapted Screenplay - Anna Hamilton Phelan and Tab Murphy (lost to Christopher Hampton for Dangerous Liaisons
Best Sound (lost to Bird)
Best  Editing (lost to Who Framed Roger Rabbit?)
Best Score - Maurice Jarre (lost to Dave Grusin for The Milagro Beanfield War)

(I have never even heard of Bird or The Milagro Beanfield War!) 

Despite scenes with cute baby gorillas, this is a pretty horrific film. It's about the true story of Dian Fossey (pronounced Diane even though she's missing the e!) who was a big advocate for gorillas and studied them in Rwanda in the '60 - '80s. I had heard of this movie, but I wasn't familiar with Fossey...it was Jane Goodall who I was always aware of. I wasn't sure what to think of Dian. She was very passionate about her cause, but they sure did make her unlikeable or just kinda stupid at times. When she arrives in Africa for the first time, she has a whole suitcase just packed with make up. Seriously, you are in the jungle studying wildlife...why do you need make up? She starts in the Congo and is given an assistant in the form of an animal tracker (John Omirah Miluwi) who will help her track the apes. Her time in the Congo is very short lived as she is forced to leave by Congolese soldiers who destroy her research site and accuse her of being a foreign spy.

She and her team relocates to Rwanda. She gets very up close and personal with the apes, often just sitting with them. She gives them names and becomes quite attached to them. She does get some human affection when she begins an affair with an attractive (but married!) Australian photographer (Bryan Brown) from National Geographic comes to take photos of Dian with the apes for the magazine. He is there for a few months and offers to leave his wife for her, but his job does not allow him to only stay in one place and Dian refuses to leave so they end their relationship when he has to head off to a new location.

Sadly, many of the apes become victims of poaching and Dian makes it her life's mission to stop it. There was one instance where she steals back a baby ape whose entire family had been killed for the poachers to be able better to get to it. With the baby gorilla in her arms, she marches into the dining room of a hotel where the man who wants the baby ape for his zoo is eating and pretty much berates him in front of everybody for what he did. She tries to take care of the baby herself, but in the end, she has to let him go to the zoo to get her deal for what she wants for protecting the apes. A government minister allows her an anti-poaching group consisting of three men. Gorillas were being poached just for their heads or hands just to make tacky gorilla hand ash trays (I don't even want to know what they did with the heads!) which is just horrible and gross.

There was one ape in particular, Digit, who she had a very close bond with. Needless to say, Dian becomes nearly inconsolable when she discovers that Digit has been beheaded and arms cut off by poachers. She becomes very short with the students who have come to study with her, almost blaming them for Digit's death (because if she hadn't been with them, she could have stopped Digit's murder) and burns down the poacher's camp and probably would have even gone on to kill them if she hadn't been stopped. As a viewer, you become attached to the apes too and while you don't see Digit actually being killed, you do see his limbless body and it is very horrific.

The ending was very odd as we see Dian going to bed after looking at many photos of Digit and we see a shadow creep into her room and attack her with a big knife. Supposedly her death is a mystery and nobody knows who killed her. The happened on December 27, 1985 when she was 53 and the movie came out in 1988, so they didn't waste any time making her story into a movie!

The film ends with upbeat African drums as we see Dian is buried next to Digit, which is actually quite sweet. But I was a little confused by the upbeat music! I guess we were suppose to be happy that Dian and Digit were reunited?

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