Film Reviews

Review: ‘Chasing Coral’

Hot Docs 2017

Courtesy of Hot Docs

Chasing Coral
(USA, 93 min.)
Dir. Jeff Orlowsi
Programme: Special Presentations (International Premiere)

In a cinematic landscape teeming with environmental advocacy docs calling attention to the woes of climate change, Chasing Coral manages to stand apart from the pack by focussing on a part of the planet witnessed by only a select few. The splendour of a coral reef is for many the stuff of children’s cartoons or vacation snorkeling, but for scientists, avid divers, fisherpeople and activists, they are not only the largest living systems on our world but also harbingers for the radical changes being made on our planet.

What began as a project to setup automated camera systems to capture “bleaching,” or the rapid death of coral colonies, soon became a cross continental trek to bring these images to a wider audience. The film’s central tenet, that to merely read or hear of climate change in the abstract is insufficient, and only by having viewers witness the destruction visually can real action be fostered, makes for quite a polemical piece. The imagery that they manage to capture is compelling, and their travails in getting the systems to work is fascinating. By capturing in the tragic tale of the coral one of the largest mass-deaths in recorded history for coral, Jeff Orlowski’s work transcends any of its filmmaking shortcomings (such as predictability and repetition) by serving its primary intent: rallying the troops, informing the public, and bringing to light the very real challenges the Earth’s oceans are facing.

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