Before the Flood (Fisher Stevens, 2016)


I saw this at London’s Debtford Cinema, where it was programmed by a friend of mine. It doesn’t really feel possible to review a documentary film made to raise awareness of climate change in the same way as one would another film. The attempt to educate on the issue is commendable, so all that can really be said is that this is a genuine and heartfelt film, and leaves the viewer in no doubt as to Leonardo DiCaprio’s commitment to the cause.

DiCaprio travels the world to investigate the causes and impact of the global addiction to burning fossil fuels. He speaks to politicians, scientists, and other important figures (including the Pope), and tries to achieve the knowledge and understanding relevant to reducing our own carbon footprints. We get a sense of our moral culpability – but also our power to drive change – through the stats and figures presented throughout the film.

There is one particularly powerful scene near the end, where former astronaut Dr. Piers Sellers sits down with DiCaprio in a dark room that’s illuminated by a graphic of the Earth. He talks about how his experiences in space allowed him to appreciate the world’s beauty. After getting a stage-four cancer diagnosis upon returning to Earth, he became inspired to create satellite images that put the world’s big problems onto one image. We can see how different currents and rising temperatures will soon affect different parts of the world, leading to water and food shortages, thereby leading to more conflicts between humankind. But Dr. Sellers is an optimist— he believes that if we can all see our presence in the world on a much larger scale than simply what’s in front of us, we might be able to change our way of life, before it’s too late.

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