Rarely do I settle down excitedly for a TV premiere; the advent of on-demand catch-up TV options has made redundant any collective flurry of enthusiasm in the Idle house. Ignoring the release strategy for Before the Flood – for it too was available on-demand via YouTube – I put all mobile devices out of reach at 9pm on Sunday to fully immerse myself in Leonardo DiCaprio's new documentary about climate change.
Directed by Fisher Stevens, and executive produced by none other than Martin Scorsese, this National Geographic film is a thing of beauty, making the most of sweeping, drone-captured photography to bring the narrative to life.
For those of you working in sustainability communications these past five years, you will know that best practice suggests overlooking doom and the gloom illustrations and negative storytelling in favour of possibilities, solutions, innovation and technological wonder.
Well, this film goes back to basics. Following an angry-looking DiCaprio, a UN Messenger of Peace with a special focus on climate change, over the course of two years, the movie uses every trick in the old-school book (polar bears on melting glaciers included) to depict our planet's plight and get his message across – that climate change has already taken its toll and failure to curb its march will end in disaster.
But it does a fantastic job of simplifying a big, fat complex issue.
It doesn’t try to dumb things down; we get to hear from some of the greatest academic and scientific minds out there, as well as some top NGOs and politicians (Barack Obama and John Kerry included) – people with real knowledge and insight into their subject. And it is edited and packaged in such a way that really lays out the problem, as well as many of the solutions (Elon Musk is on hand to explain his vision in probably the most jargon-laded segment of the film).
Ultimately this is a film that will hopefully appeal to newcomers. I, like many of you, learned very little new from watching Before the Flood. But then this is not a film designed for those of us with any real knowledge of the subject.
It is for those coming to the issue of climate change fresh, or with limited awareness or interest.
Ten years ago, I bought the DVD of Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth. At that time, my knowledge and awareness of climate issues was minimal and that movie had such a huge impact on me; things exploded from there and my passion and interest for working in the world of sustainability was cemented. So many people I have spoken to in the past decade say they had a similar experience after watching that film. The power of storytelling is incredible.
As an artistic tool to engage people that are sat on the periphery of this era-defining issue, Before the Flood is a special film. Whatever you think of Leonardo DiCaprio – and I am not a massive fan; I find him cold, detached and hard to warm to as a personality – I heartily recommend this film.