Occupational therapist Dian Fossey (Sigourney Weaver) is inspired by the anthropologist Louis Leakey (Iain Cuthbertson) to devote her life to the study of primates. To this end, she writes ceaselessly to him for a job cataloguing and studying the rare mountain gorillas of Africa. With some effort, she manages to convince Leakey of her conviction and devotion to the cause at hand after personally approaching him following a lecture in Louisville, Kentucky, on his part in 1966.
Thereafter, Fossey embarks into the Congo, where Leakey and his foundation equip her with the necessary equipment and housing to achieve personal contact with the gorillas, and introduce her to a local animal tracker, Sembagare (John Omirah Miluwi), to assist her in her endeavors. Settling deep in the jungle, Fossey and Sembagare manage to locate a troop of gorillas, but they are ultimately displaced by the events of the Congo Crisis after being forcibly evicted from their research site by Congolese soldiers, who accuse Fossey of being a foreign spy and agitator.
Initially, Fossey sees no other option but to leave the continent and return to the United States. However, after Sembagare and her temporary host Rosamond Carr (Julie Harris) motivate her to stay, she decides to base her research efforts in the jungles of neighboring Rwanda, which Dian presumes will be safe from outside incursions.
However, what Fossey fails to foresee are the rampant problems of poaching and corruption taking place therein, which become apparent when she discovers several traps in the vicinity of her new base at Karisoke. Nevertheless, Fossey and her colleagues make several key headways with the gorillas, taking account of the gorilla’s communication and social groups. In so doing, her work impresses Leakey and gains broader international attention.
National Geographic, which funds her efforts, takes an increasingly marked interest in her work and dispatches photographer Bob Campbell (Bryan Brown) to highlight her research. Fossey, initially unreceptive towards the outsider Campbell, grows increasingly attached to him after several photo sessions with the gorillas, and the two eventually become lovers, in spite of Campbell’s marriage.
Campbell proposes to divorce his wife and marry her but insists that she would have to spend time away from Karisoke and her gorillas, leading her to call off the tryst and ending their relationship. During this time, Fossey also becomes close to a gorilla named Digit, forming an emotional bond with him, and attempts to prevent the export of other gorillas by the trader Van Vecten (Constantin Alexandrov).
Gorillas in the Mist is a 1988 American drama film directed by Michael Apted and starring Sigourney Weaver as naturalist Dian Fossey. It tells the true story of her work in Rwanda with mountain gorillas and was nominated for five Academy Awards.
Gorillas in the Mist (1988)
Directed by: Michael Apted
Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Bryan Brown, Julie Harris, John Omirah Miluwi, Iain Cuthbertson, Constantin Alexandrov, Waigwa Wachira, Maggie O’Neill, Gordon Masten
Screenplay by: Anna Hamilton Phelan
Production Design by: John Graysmark
Cinematography by: John Seale
Film Editing by: Stuart Baird
Costume Design by: Catherine Leterrier
Set Decoration by: Simon Wakefield
Art Direction by: Ken Court
Music by: Maurice Jarre
Distributed by: Universal Pictures (USA / Canada), Warner Bros. Pictures (International)
Release Date: September 23, 1988