Before the Flood: Watch Dicaprio’s Climate Change Documentary – If there is an adjective to best describe Leonardo DiCaprio it may simply be “commitment.” In Django Unchained he famously sliced his hand on a shard of glass and continued on in one of the film’s most spellbinding scenes. In The Revenant, he basically served as nature’s punching bag and channeled brutal survivalism into an oscar winning performance. DiCaprio’s most enduring project, however, has been his commitment to environmentalism. He founded the non-profit Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation in 1998 to address environmental issues and has been an enduring voice in the movement since, even addressing the United Nations in 2014 under the title of UN Messenger of Peace.
Available on Youtube now, Before the Flood is the culmination of DiCaprio’s near twenty-year commitment to the issue of climate change. Directed by Fisher Stevens and filmed over the course of three years, the documentary addresses the varying causes of climate change as well as its widespread impacts. The film features DiCaprio on a global journey to fully understand the issue and features interviews with President Barrack Obama, Elon Musk, and Pope Francis among an assortment of leading climate change scientists.
Looking at the state of American politics, it is becoming increasingly clear that the election is a battle over personalities rather than the issues themselves. As the candidates work out the most effective way to slander each other, the electorate cries out for some substantial analysis of important issues, climate change chief among them. To be fair, it was briefly mentioned in the first debate with Hillary Clinton acknowledging it’s severity and stating she’d continue President Obama’s commitment to addressing it. Clinton also reminded viewers that Donald Trump had previously called climate change a hoax created by China. Trump immediately denied the claim only to have twitter promptly respond with thousands of retweets from his personal account in which he said exactly what Clinton had accused him of.
Trump’s ignorance wouldn’t be so alarming if it wasn’t reflective of massive swaths of the American public. Despite immense scientific consensus, there are still many who deny the science and others who simply remain uninformed. In North America, it is easy to ignore climate change because we don’t see its immediate effects. It is this sense of immediacy that is essential to Before the Flood. DiCaprio’s global pursuits convey that for many people, environmental issues do have a daily impact and it is the film’s ability to convey this that makes it so powerful.
In the streets of Beijing, DiCaprio learns how smog and pollution pose daily health risks. In the Canadian Arctic, he witnesses the rapid melting of polar ice caps and learns about the radical impact it will have on future weather patterns. In India, DiCaprio has a powerful conversation with Dr. Sunita Narain, learning how many citizens live without power in stark contrast to American prosperity. Narain questions how western states can tell others to invest in renewable energy when they’ve reaped the benefits of fossil fuels for this long? With each new visit, the film provides a window into the different struggles posed by climate change.
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At the London premiere, DiCaprio said, “we wanted to create a film that gave people a sense of urgency, that made them understand what particular things are going to solve this problem.” After initially airing on National Geographic, the documentary has been made widely available on Youtube. The film features gorgeous photography and an atmospheric score by Trent Reznor. Before the Flood is equal parts entertaining, informative, and haunting. In a time when important issues are largely ignored, it is well worth your 90 minutes.