Saving Atlantis

Beautiful and mysterious, coral reefs are a vital part of the planet’s ecosystem, and are becoming increasingly endangered at an alarming rate. Saving Atlantis looks at the reasons why this is happening, what impact this has, and how we can make a change.

Saving Atlantis is a feature documentary directed by Justin Smith and David Baker, and produced by Oregon State University.

If you’ve been fascinated and/or angered by Sir David Attenborough’s documentaries on the effects of both climate change and mankind on our planet’s state of well being, then this is for you.

Coral reefs cover only 0.1% of the Earth’s surface, but they are home to 25% of all marine species, and are being lost at an alarming rate. Pollution, over-fishing and climate change are some of the human-influenced culprits in the dramatic decline of these magnificent natural structures. But research from scientists around the world hints at bright spots where real strides can be made in preserving and protecting these habitats.

The filmmakers spend time with a variety of people and examine a range of potential solutions to the issue. Of course the scientists lead the way, with beautifully filmed explanations of how corals form, grow and survive (or not) in their changing habitat, and how the impact of climate change endangers the corals at an alarming rate. It’s all explained in a manner which is accessible for the non-expert, and visually stunning. Filming takes place in a variety of locations around the world – not just the obvious Great Barrier Reef but also places such as Colombia, Hawaii and French Polynesia – all of which provide a rich source of gorgeous marine and coastal imagery to frame the documentary.

But it’s not all about the science. Local residents explain how they are reliant on the coral reefs for their livelihood, and older generations remember how things have changed in their lifetimes.

There’s also a really interesting section with elders of the coastal indiginous people of Australia who are working with a group of younger Australians to try to pass on the knowledge of generations in an attempt to preserve and protect the remaining coral reef.

The version I watched seems to have been an unfinished version – a number of interviews or talking heads in Spanish were not subtitled, and although my knowledge of the language could get the gist of what was going on, the important details escaped me. And although the end credits were plentiful, none of the interviewees was named on-screen during the documentary. It seemed that there was space for this to happen, but the captions hadn’t been added. Hopefully this will be finished for release, as it would have been good to know whose point of view and contribution to the debate we were listening to.

And although this type of documentary is more usually seen on television, Saving Atlantis is nevertheless a very interesting, timely, and highly relevant documentary – and the bigger the screen you can see it on, the better. And after that, if you feel like you want to help coral reefs, then Oregon State University even provides some specific information.

Saving Atlantis is available on digital on 12th November.

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