Water Docs Film Festival had the pleasure of co-presenting the special return screening of CHASING CORAL (2017) at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema on Thursday, July 13th. This film is stunning on so many levels - visually, emotionally, cognitively. Here's why you should definitely stop, drop and watch Chasing Coral on Netflix right now. Skip to the bottom for the top 4 reasons you should tune in.
In the 1980s, scientists began to notice that coral reefs around the world were behaving a little strangely: they were turning bone white for unknown reasons. So the scientists did what good scientists always do - they began to study the coral in a lab setting, attempting to recreate whatever was causing the phenomenon.
The only situation that caused the corals in the lab to go white was when the scientists raised the temperature of the water by 2 degrees celsius. The corals weren't just turning white - they were dying.
In the last 30 years we have lost 50% of the world's corals due to what has come to be known as 'Coral Bleaching.' 22% of that was in 2016 alone. And this is bad - really bad - because coral is a fundamental part of a huge ecosystem: if they disappear, we lose a quarter of the ocean's marine life. Entire classes of organisms would go extinct. The livelihoods of the billion people who rely on this ecosystem for their survival would be disrupted. And we can kiss the beneficial life-saving products we make from Coral Reefs goodbye.
But - as the saying goes - out of sight, out of mind. How do you make people aware of what's going on underneath our planet's waters - and also make them care? You chase corals the same way you chase ice. And you make people fall in love with them.
Jeff Orlowski, director of CHASING ICE, and his team take us on an emotionally charged, dazzling tour of the world's coral reefs in CHASING CORAL. Orlowski's background in marketing is put to work assisting corals with what is essentially a branding problem: what if you could capture the biggest coral bleaching event in history and put it on the big screen for everyone to see just how dire the situation really is?
Here are 4 things the film does really, really well:
1) It is a feast for the eyes and mind
You will fall in love with coral reefs. The imagery of this alien world bustling with energy and teeming with life just below the surface of our known lives is awe-inspiring. The scientific explanation for how the corals operate - as a foundation species with all these other organisms that depend on them for survival (including humans) - that accompanies the underwater footage is fascinating. This is a delicious film for the eyes and mind.
2) The camera equipment is equally as mind-blowing
In keeping with the narrative arch of its predecessor CHASING ICE, CHASING CORAL provides a behind-the-scenes look at the camera equipment used to film this stunning underwater world. The equipment itself becomes a marvel, particularly the time-lapse cameras used to capture the 2016 mass coral bleaching event.
The team had to develop a system that could withstand the depth, water pressure, salt and stormy weather of the environment the cameras would be sitting in. There is no limit to the creativity at work here and we are right there with them all through the painstaking process they go through to make this film.
3) It provides a really great bird's eye view of the problem
The explanation of Global Climate Change and how it is affecting the temperature of our oceans is excellent. The scientists interviewed in the film give a straightforward explanation for how the release of CO2 into the atmosphere is heating up the planet - and how 93% of that heat trapped by the Earth is absorbed by the oceans.
Here's why that really, really sucks: in 25 years, the oceans will be too warm for coral reefs to survive, which means they'll bleach every year making them too unhealthy to recover. Since entire ecosystems depend on them, that means we're looking at the possibility of entire classes of organisms going extinct. We are looking at the possibility that we will witness the eradication of an entire ecosystem. In our lifetime.
4) It's empowering
But don't worry - the film doesn't leave you floating in hot water. It ends on a positive note as every great environmental doc should. It's not too late. There are already so, so many positive things taking place: entire countries and cities around the world have pledged their dedication to kicking their fossil fuel addiction and making the leap to clean energy sources. Programs to engage kids and youth using inspiring technology like virtual reality mean an entire generation is going to grow up educated and passionate about all this stuff.
But most important of all, this documentary is a call to action for you, and me. And frankly everyone we know. This is our home and it's time to take it back. Go watch the film, share it with your friends, host movie nights, connect with each other and then get unapologetically LOUD. There is still time, we can still do this. Here's to the better world we all know is possible.