Documentary Review: Chasing Coral

Title: Chasing Coral
Run Time: 1:29
Genre: Science and Nature Documentary
Year: 2017
Streaming: Netflix

Visuals: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Story: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 1/2
Argument: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 1/2
Impact: 😢

“Do we need forests? Do we need trees? Do we need reefs? Or can we live in the ashes of all of that?”

Chasing Coral matches form to content in its efforts to implement the adage of “show, don’t tell.” We open with stylized, breathtaking imagery of an ocean teaming with life. After immersing us in this blue world, the narrator calls us to appreciate the waters and evokes a call to action. This opening mirrors the aim of the documentary, as  Chasing Coral tells the story of Richard Vevers and his team, who set out to bring the reality of our dying ocean to the forefront of public consciousness.

Largely, the ocean is out of sight, which in turn leads it to being out of mind. As the documentary states, though, “without a healthy ocean, we do not have a healthy planet.” Not only does Chasing Coral work to show its audience the devastating bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef – among other reefs around the world – it also shows us the arduous process of documenting said bleaching.

As such, the documentary is a testament to human ingenuity and resilience. The team sets out to do something that had yet to be done: capture a time-lapse of the ocean floor. Vevers’ team first sought to implement new technology, and when that failed them, they dedicated themselves to a month spent videoing the same sections of the Great Barrier Reef. Over and over and over again.

The drive which Vevers, Zack Rago, and the rest of the team demonstrate is inspiring to say the least. Though manually capturing the time lapse was at first deemed impractical, when push came to shove, each diver decided that showing the world the devastation in our oceans superseded personal comfort.

In addition to being a testament to human perseverance, Chasing Coral lays out the importance of our ocean’s reefs in clear terms. Beyond their majestic beauty, reefs provide homes for many of the fish we eat, they protect our islands from devastating hurricanes and typhoons, and the corals themselves provide medicines. By laying out the facts of what reefs mean to us as a species, the documentary effectively evokes powerful emotions and lays out a clear call to action.

“Do we need forests?” Dr. John “Charlie” Veron asks us. “Do we need trees? Do we need reefs? Or can we live in the ashes of all of that?” Regardless of what answer you come to, the question is an important one. An immeasurable weight comes with the devastation of any of Earth’s unique environments, and the weight is one we must not turn away from, as it will affect our children and our children’s children for generations to come.

If you’ve watched it, I’m curious to hear your thoughts on Chasing Coral. What struck you most? Or, do you completely disagree with my take? If the oceans are warming, as the documentary shows, is there anything we can do about it? And if not, what is the alternative? Let’s start a discussion!


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