If you are after an accessible overview of the key environmental issues facing our planet, Fisher Stevens’s 2016 documentary, Before The Flood, is a good place to start.
The film follows Leonardo DiCaprio as he explores such challenges as climate change, fossil fuel use, the spread of misinformation, the dangers of drought and flooding and the destruction of the rainforest.
Much like with Al Gore in An Inconvenient Truth, Before The Flood also explores DiCaprio’s right to talk to us about his environmental concerns. Why should we listen to this actor? Who is he to tell us how to live?
DiCaprio explains his interest, his knowledge, his passion and his sense of responsibility. The actor understands the power of his media profile. He has the ability to raise awareness about these issues and he can gain access to some of the most important politicians (including Barack Obama - while he was still US president), scientists and environmentalists in the world.
Despite looking at developments around the globe (and China in particular), Before The Flood has a definite US focus. Nonetheless, this documentary is of interest regardless of where in the world you live.
DiCaprio’s interest in the environment was sparked over 20 years ago, thanks to a meeting with one Mr Al Gore. However, he has been passionate about the natural world since childhood - thanks in part to a print of The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch that (rather terrifyingly) was hung on a wall near his crib.
While Before The Flood does not show us anything new (especially if you have seen other documentaries about the environment), it does collate a number of concerns together in a simple to digest and accessible format.
We understand the dangers of carbon dioxide emissions, palm oil, our overreliance on beef in our diet, climate change and the very real threat that millions of people will lose their homes and become environmental refugees.
However, Before The Flood is not all doom and gloom. Like An Inconvenient Truth, the film offers us ideas about how we can make real, significant change. One of the most powerful concepts in the documentary is this.. If we want change - if all of us genuinely want to make a difference - politicians, corporations and global organisations will follow our lead.
Before The Flood ends by considering the impact of The Paris Accord - the United Nations framework on climate change. Does it go far enough? Arms crossed, DiCaprio questions Obama. The (then) President agrees... the Accord is just the start.
Sadly, we know how this chapter ends… for now at least. Let's hope that this is not the end of the story.
Before The Flood is part of the environmental documentary collection of Documentary 7.
If you enjoyed this movie, I would also recommend:
March Of The Penguins
An Inconvenient Truth and An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth To Power
Encounters at the End of the World
I would also like to include the following honourable mentions: 2040: Join The Regeneration, The Ivory Game, Anote’s Ark, Being The Change, The Island President, Climate Of Doubt and Switch.
Do you have any environmental documentaries that you would like to recommend? If so, do let us know in the comments section below or over on Twitter. You can find me @500DaysOfFilm.