BEFORE THE FLOOD (2016, doc)


before-the-flood Greetings again from the darkness. Ten years ago Al Gore became a climate-change icon thanks to the Oscar-winning documentary An Convenient Truth (from director Davis Guggenheim). With this updated warning, the climate change crown is passed to Leonardo DiCaprio, and rather than just speak to the topic, he takes us on a worldwide journey to show us the effects.

The film is bookended by DiCaprio’s speech to the UN general assembly after he was named UN Messenger of Peace on Climate Change. It’s a reminder that the mega movie star has long been an environmental activist … and yes, before you scoff, he does acknowledge that his carbon footprint is probably larger than ours (an obvious understatement – unless you also travel by yacht and private jets, and own multiple mansions).

DiCaprio’s personal story about Bosch’s “The Garden of Earthly Delights” hanging above his crib (seriously, how many parents think this is acceptable artwork for a toddler?) acts as a visual to his message that we are on the path of virtual destruction to the earth that we now know.

The power of celebrity in on full display as DiCaprio scores interviews with such luminaries as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, President Obama, Elon Musk, John Kerry, and even Pope Francis. There is also a clip of his long-ago interview with then President Clinton (Bill, not Hillary). However, it’s not the talking heads that have the most impact here. Rather, it’s the first-hand look at the Canadian Arctic, the disappearing glaciers of Greenland, the sunny day street flooding in Miami, the destruction of Indonesian Rain Forest to capitalize on the palm oil market, and the eroding coral reefs. The film plays like a Tim Burton Travel Channel series … each stop more nightmarish than the previous.

His passion is obvious, though his knowledge less so. DiCaprio understands the power his celebrity brings, and he joins with director Fisher Stevens (known mostly for his acting, but also an Oscar winning director for The Cove, 2009) in this attempt to bring the urgent message to the masses. As they state, we are beyond simply changing lightbulbs, and the key is a shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy … a shift that China (not the U.S.) has taken seriously.

With generic solutions like “consume less” and “vote better”, the film mostly avoids controversy … though it does acknowledge the slick and well-funded ‘campaign of denial’ by those who profit mightily from a fossil-fuel dependent world. We see an impressive map/video screen tracking ocean currents, temperatures, etc. and there is a chart comparing electricity usage by U.S. citizens vs other countries (we are energy hogs, in case you weren’t sure). The ending message hasn’t changed much in the past 10 years … “It is all up to us”.

watch the trailer:

 

 

 

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