A documentary that tells the story of Gorilla Doctors’ life-saving work has been nominated for an award in Canada’s equivalent of the Emmys.

The program, aptly titled Gorilla Doctors, has been nominated for Best Science or Nature Documentary Program; winners will be announced at the Canadian Screen Awards, which will air live on March 13 in Canada.

The documentary was shot in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda in partnership with Gorilla Doctors and the Rwanda Development Board in 2013, and aired in October of 2014 on the Canadian Broadcasting Company’s acclaimed documentary series, The Nature of Things, which has been televised for 50 years and is narrated by world-renowned environmentalist, David Suzuki.

The documentary explored the level of care that has gone into ensuring the survival of the species while pondering the question: If we’re doing all of these things to keep mountain gorillas alive, are they truly wild?

The program was directed by Michael Boland and Roberto Valencia and produced by David York and Bryn Hughes of 52 Media, who trekked up the mountains many times to get the footage they needed, knowing all the while that it was a “once in a lifetime experience.”

“It’s nice to be recognized for the work,” Hughes told me by phone. “Especially this story. I’m glad that people will know more about work that Gorilla Doctors does. The nomination is good for that.”

Hughes detailed the team’s experience in a CBC blog post shortly after filming had finished.

Filming gorillas has its variety of challenges. First, you have to physically get yourself and all of the requisite camera and sound gear up a volcano. Fortunately, there is a whole sub-industry of support surrounding this endeavor. Hardy four-wheel drive trucks, porters, trackers and rangers all work to get you where you need to be.  The anticipation of seeing the gorillas and the incredible scenery keep you moving.

When we arrived at our ‘staging’ area (usually 200 meters or so from where the gorillas are hanging out) we prep our cameras and our sound gear, leave our non-essentials with the porters and make our way through the forest.  It is usually dense and very wet.  Like all gorilla visitors, we are limited to one hour, so we have to make the most of it.

One particular moment stood out in her experience:

I had my most memorable moment in Rwanda.  It was our final trek as a full crew.  We were following Sabyinyo group as they moved through the bamboo forest.  A ranger and myself split from the crew to scout a little ahead of where the rest were filming.   We came upon a small clearing and there sat an adult female and her baby.  We had been trying to film her the entire time, but she kept moving away.  There she sat, in perfect light, her arms encircling her baby.  Not unlike how I hold my daughter.  She just looked at me.  Unperturbed.  I snapped a few shots with my camera, but lowered it rather quickly.  We just stood there looking at each other for a few minutes.  It is easy to get wrapped up in getting the perfect shot, as this is what we were here to do. I let the awe and wonder of being in the presence of a majestic species in their natural world sink in, an experience that is getting harder and harder to have in this complicated world of ours.  She then got up, babe secured beneath her, and ambled off.

At the moment, the documentary can not be viewed outside Canada, but we’ll be sure to let you know if that changes in the future.

— Justin Cox