Barry Jenkins and Leonardo DiCaprio movie

Barry Jenkins, who won an Oscar for co-writing his Best Picture winner Moonlight, hasn’t made a movie since he wrote and directed the beautiful, heartbreaking adaptation of James Baldwin’s If Beale Street Could Talk in 2018. He’s still hard at work adapting Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad into a TV series for Amazon, and now he’s been hired for yet another adaptation, this time by Netflix.

Jenkins will write the screenplay for Virunga, a live-action feature film adaptation of the 2014 documentary which has the same name. Leonardo DiCaprio, who executive produced that documentary, is on board this version as a producer. 

Deadline broke the news about this new Barry Jenkins and Leonardo DiCaprio movie, which makes us wish they were collaborating in a different configuration. Leo typically only acts for great filmmakers, and Jenkins is absolutely one of the greats in the field right now – maybe this project will lead to a different collaboration down the line.

But that’s not to take anything away from Virunga, which sounds like a vital, environmentally friendly story that’s near and dear to both of their hearts. The film earned an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary after it was picked up by Netflix, and it centers on an African national park which is threatened when oil companies set their sights on drilling in that region. It primarily follows the journeys of a ragtag group of park rangers who band together to try to protect the land. Here’s the trailer:

And here’s the official synopsis:

Virunga is the incredible true story of a group of brave people risking their lives to build a better future in a part of Africa the world’s forgotten and a gripping expose of the realities of life in the Congo. In the forested depths of eastern Congo lies Virunga National Park, one of the most bio-diverse places in the world and home to the last of the mountain gorillas. In this wild, but enchanted environment, a small and embattled team of park rangers – including an ex-child soldier turned ranger, a caretaker of orphan gorillas and a Belgian conservationist – protect this UNESCO world heritage site from armed militia, poachers and the dark forces struggling to control Congo’s rich natural resources. When the newly formed M23 rebel group declares war in May 2012, a new conflict threatens the lives and stability of everyone and everything they’ve worked so hard to protect.

Orlando von Einsiedel directed the documentary, but there’s no word yet about who could end up directing this new version.

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