There are some topics that have general agreement in the academic community but the general public seem more divided on. The environment is definitely one of those topics. There are some that outright don’t believe that climate change is happening at all. Most people do accept that climate change is happening but there are some among them that believe it’s not nearly as bad as scientists and experts are making it out to be. For those who believe climate change is happening and may only manage to convince a couple of people after furious online debates where everyone will pull some graph showing something or other.
If only there was some widely available documentary discussing whether climate change exists and the effects on the planet to help bring the topic to the forefront of the public eye. Would it be actor Ted Danson whose testified on ocean conservation? Would it be Dr Jane Goodall who’d been an environmental activist long before she became famous? It would be Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio who would produce and narrate Before The Flood.
I can imagine some people are taken a bit aback by the fact that DiCaprio is behind this project alongside director Fisher Stevens, executive producer Martin Scorsese, producer Brett Ratner among others. What the public may have missed is that DiCaprio has been passionate about the environment for the past 15 years. He discusses his passion for the Earth in the set-up for the documentary, remarking on every relevant part of his life that lead him to create Before The Flood. This film is a very clear passion project and that helps in not only its appeal but in its effectiveness. This isn’t a vanity project as a means of self-inflation. This is a heartfelt film that comes from a genuine concern for the Earth. Add in the numerous experts DiCaprio interviews, the numerous places he visits ravaged by the effects of climate change and the staggering data and statistics on the issue and you have a powerful film aided by breathtaking cinematography and top notch editing that is bound to captivate even the most skeptical of viewers.
DiCaprio is a great narrator who immerses himself into the topic but he’s definitely not the most effective person in the documentary. It’s the testimony of some of the people he speaks to who’ve clearly devoted their lives and careers to the issue. It’s people like Indian environmentalist and political activist Sunita Narain who calls Dicaprio out on the hypocrisy of the American government to push clean energy expectations onto developing economies when the US haven’t transitioned itself, NASA scientist and astronaut Piers J Sellars with stage 4 pancreatic cancer whose dedicating his last days to building climate change models to help the world when he passes away and Dr Enric Sala who speaks for us all when he tells DiCaprio as they listen to pod of narwhals together, “I don’t want to be in a planet without these animals.” These people are worth watching on their own.
This is a film that everybody needs to see not necessarily for entertainment but out of urgency. The planet is in trouble and this film tells us exactly how and why. Perhaps this film will help start some change. Perhaps it won’t but I’m looking forward to finding out.
Before The Flood premiered at the BFI London Film Festival.
It hits National Geographic on 30th Oct