Sundance 2017: Heartbreaking, Urgent Documentary ‘Chasing Coral’

Chasing Coral Trailer

I didn’t think watching amazing footage of coral dying would make me so emotional, but it did. I was wiping away tears through this fantastic documentary, Chasing Coral, the follow-up to Jeff Orlowski’s Chasing Ice. Orlowski is a very passionate, extremely talented filmmaker who not only dives deep into his projects, but knows how to make an engaging and encouraging documentary. Chasing Coral documents Orlowski’s mission to capture time-lapse footage of coral in the ocean being bleached due to rising water temperature, which is caused by the excessive amount of fossil fuels we’re burning. Not only does he get the footage, he crafts a gripping narrative around chasing coral and ends with a enthusiastic call for action. Go see this doc.

I’ve seen pretty much every last climate documentary made over the last few years, and many of them are too depressing or don’t have enough hope in them (as was the case with Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Sequel, which also premiered at Sundance 2017). That’s not the case with Chasing Coral, this is an example of how to make an outstanding climate change doc that not only engages and enrages viewers, but spurs them into action. It’s full of utterly gorgeous underwater imagery from oceans around the world, footage you’ve likely never seen before that will make your jaw drop. And the people they profile, the various scientists and coral nerds and other activists, are so captivating and charming. All of this put together makes the film stand out.

In Chasing Ice (another doc worth watching), filmmaker Jeff Orlowski dedicated his life to figure out how to photograph the melting of the ice caps in order to show everyone how alarming climate change is. It’s happening so fast, and it’s happening out of our view, in places most people never go or never see. Orlowski picks up where he left off with that film, and in Chasing Coral takes on another adventure underwater to show us how coral bleaching events are destroying the ecosystem of the ocean, and it’s truly scary. As I’ve mentioned, I wasn’t expecting to feel so emotional about watching coral dying, but man, it really got to me. It’s not just the footage, it’s how he presents it. The story unfolds over years, and by the end you’ll realize we’re running out of time. This is urgent. We need to do something about this (stop using fossil fuels) now.

On top of all the footage, Chasing Coral also features a wonderful score by Dan Romer (of Beasts of the Southern Wild) and Saul Simon MacWilliams. It’s a powerful climate change documentary that doesn’t rely on anger or panic, it takes its time to draw us into its world and teach us about what is going before showing us what’s happening (and how bad it is). It introduces us to passionate, lovable people who care deeply about this planet we live on and how we can keep it healthy. And it reminds everyone that it’s up to us to do something about this problem, and that we need to wake up and see what’s going on. Thank you, Jeff Orlowski and everyone involved in this, for making me feel passionate (again) about saving this planet.

Alex’s Sundance 2017 Rating: 9.5 out of 10
Follow Alex on Twitter – @firstshowing