The official Opening Night of the inaugural EARTHxFilm event proved to be an evening of hope buoyed by passion, optimism and commitment. Scheduled in conjunction with the seventh annual EARTH Day Texas, the reception, introductions, and opening film Chasing Coral were held at Dallas Music Hall at Fair Park.
EARTHxFilm President Michael Cain, one of the most influential forces on the Dallas film scene for years, expressed that this is a “gift to the city” from philanthropist and businessman Trammell Crow, and that many worked diligently to bring it all together – including Ryan Brown and Dennis Bishop. Notably, Mr. Cain acknowledged the support of both The Dallas International Festival and Dallas Video Fest. This type of support and collaboration is not typical of all cities, but DIFF’s Lee Papert and James Faust, and DVF’s Bart Weiss are all extraordinary ambassadors for the Dallas film industry, and we are quite fortunate to have them working in our city.
Filmmakers in attendance were recognized, and Mr. Cain said the group ranged from 12 year old first-timers to Oscar winners. His stated wish was for everyone in the audience to become EARTHxFilm missionaries and encourage others to join in. Education is a key focus of the organization, and we were shown about 15 one-minute films created around the idea of nature, conservation, environmentalism, etc. It was a very nice way to kick off the evening and prepare us for the featured screening of Chasing Coral.
Whether you have spent vacation time snorkeling, watched the National Geographic channel, or even paid a bit of attention during high school science class, you likely have some level of understanding of what a vital ecosystem coral reefs are to Ocean life. Director Jeff Orlowski has a track record of important environmental documentaries with his 2012 Chasing Ice. Both of these movies have been well received at Sundance and other film festivals, as well as by scientific experts.
Mr. Orlowski was contacted by underwater photographer Richard Vevers once the Vevers team recognized the accelerated breakdown of corals as the ocean water temperature rose slightly. The film takes us to such places as The Great Barrier Reef in Australia, the Florida Keys, American Somoa, Hawaii, Bermuda and the Bahamas. The obvious message is that concern exists around the globe, not just in one particular locale.
The film does an excellent job of defining and explaining the importance of coral, and once Zach Rago is introduced, the energy and passion jump significantly. A charming, self-described “coral nerd”, he is also an extremely knowledgeable and committed scientist dedicated to saving this ecosystem that he worships, and he understands the important role it plays to all life.
Little doubt exists that those involved fully believe carbon emissions are to blame for the warming waters resulting in coral bleaching and finally coral death. They also believe that by reducing said emissions, there is still time to prevent the total global coral destruction predicted for the next quarter century.
If the film has any misguided moments, it would be related to the screen time spent on the challenges and frustrations associated with underwater time-lapse photography, especially from a hardware standpoint. As viewers, we are far more interested in the coral endangerment and the photography shots that do exist … especially some of the stunning before/after looks as coral reefs are quickly destroyed.
A trip to the Coral Convention provides us a glimpse at how research and information is shared by those who are working on this and other environmental issues. With limited resources, it’s crucial that access to information is available to those who need it. Finally, the film leaves us with a reminder that forests, reefs, and other ecosystems are all vital to our lives; and while the current path is quite saddening, there is optimism that we have time to stop the damage if we act now.