EXCLUSIVE: Netflix has teamed with Leonardo DiCaprio and his Appian Way Productions to release the Orlando von Einsiedel-directed documentary Virunga. The docu, which follows an embattled team of park rangers and the endangered mountain gorillas they protect in Africa, will be released simultaneously November 7 in New York and Los Angeles theaters, and on Netflix in all the territories where the pay service is available.
The film is part investigative journalism and part nature documentary, and follows the rangers as they are caught in the crossfire of poachers, militia and industry in Africa’s oldest national park. DiCaprio is the film’s executive producer.
“Films like Virunga are powerful stories that are a window into the incredible cultural and natural diversity of our world, the forces that are threatening to destroy it, and the people who are fighting to protect it,” DiCaprio said. “Partnering with Netflix on this film is an exciting opportunity to inform and inspire individuals to engage on this topic.”
This becomes the latest example of Netflix availing itself of feature talent as it continues to ramp up its output of features. The demand for nature documentaries is limited theatrically, but Netflix has a broad platform to get attention for the film, a passion project of DiCaprio, who has put on his philanthropy and environmentalist hat for this. Netflix has in quick succession pacted with Harvey Weinstein to premiere the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon sequel, and then made a deal with Adam Sandler and his Happy Madison banner to generate four comedies that Sandler will star in.
“Leo intuitively understands that there is nothing like the power of film to reach people’s hearts and minds,” said Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos. “With Virunga, we’ll work with Leo to introduce viewers around the world to an incredible, gripping story that will have audiences guessing right up until the final act.”
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