Following his impactful 2012 documentary Chasing Ice, documentarian and activist Jeff Orlowski now turns to that which lies below the surface of the ocean: reefs of coral that have bleached in colour due to the effects of climate change. Calling upon the collective wisdom of marine biologists, camera technicians and ‘coral nerds’, Chasing Coral makes a brave attempt to influence audiences across the world – and with the documentary’s international rights having been acquired by Netflix, this doesn’t seem unreasonable.
The ambitious scale of the production suits the extent of the environmental problem. The masses of footage from oceans across the world are supported by the years of research conducted by marine biologists. So endearing is their love for the coral reefs, the documentary’s assemblage of enthusiasts – led by activists Richard Vevers and Zackery Rago – effectively convey the importance of this story. The filmmakers show their footage at an international symposium on climate change, it’s emotional impact testament to the urgency of the problem. The unashamed sentimentality of the film doesn’t distract from its wisdom but, rather, makes it all the more affecting.
Chasing Coral makes its point through striking visual imagery. Microscopic coral photography is combined with impressive aerial footage of the Great Barrier Reef taken from space. Best of all is the time-lapse imagery of the rapid death of these vast ecosystems. The discoveries made are astonishing; this is a call to action that delivers hyperbole after hyperbole. It must be seen to be believed.
An urgent wake-up call, Chasing Coral is destined to make considerable waves when it lands on Netflix. Jeff Orlowski has once again proved himself to be at the vanguard of documentary making, and at a time when it is most necessary.
CAST: Richard Vevers, Zackery Rago, Ruth Gates, Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, Mark Eakin, John “Charlie” Veron
DIRECTOR: Jeff Orlowski
SYNOPSIS: Coral reefs are the nursery for all ocean life, a remarkable ecosystem that sustains us. Yet with carbon emissions warming the seas, a phenomenon called “coral bleaching” — a sign of mass coral death — has been accelerating around the world, and the public has no idea of the scale or implication of the catastrophe silently raging underwater.