Leonardo Di Caprio played Romeo, the lead in Titanic, then the highest grossing film ever, and won an Oscar fighting a bear. Martin Scorsese is the most Oscar-nominated director alive, having revolutionized film making and directing over half a century.
Their movies earned 31 Oscar nominations and grossed $1.3 billion.
Trent Reznor has won an Oscar and Grammy for his scores. Time named him one of the world's most influential people. Fisher Stevens, with a "mere" one Oscar is the least decorated of the crew, though producing The Cove gave him nature film experience.
You couldn't pick a more a qualified team in the art of cinema. What about doing something about climate change and pollution?
They recently released their collaboration, Before the Flood, which National Geographic has made available free. Here it is:
EDIT: The movie was removed for some reason, but here is a short description about it instead:
Before the Flood
The movie opens with its main theme: Hieronymus Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights, the role the painting played in Di Caprio's childhood, and its potential as a metaphor for humanity.
Have we squandered our Eden? Are we creating a hellish Mordor with our indulgent behavior?
The movie continues to Di Caprio being named an official United Nations representative on climate change. In case you didn't know, Di Caprio cares and has acts on climate change for years. The movie shows him interacting with celebrities, politicians, and crowds, promoting caring about the environment.
For nearly two centuries we've known of the greenhouse effect and its potential to raise the average global temperature. For decades we've seen its effects, generally remotely, in distant islands' receding beaches, or debatably, in the strength and apparently increasing frequency of Katrina-type hurricanes.
Before the Flood brings these effects to the here and now, affecting even rich Americans, the greatest per capita contributors to the effect. Di Caprio documents how global warming affected him during his time as UN representative.
In particular, filming The Revenant, their location in Canada was too hot for snow. If Hollywood's protected elite can't escape its effects, can anyone escape?
We can't, the movie documents, and its effects will increase.
Unlike most science-based documentaries, Before the Flood shows its effects around the world, even in America's homeland, Republican-led Miami. The effects in India, China, Pacific Islands, coral reefs, the arctic, and more are heartbreaking.
Di Caprio interacts with
- Bill Clinton
- Oprah Winfrey
- Barack Obama
- Pope Francis
- Elon Musk
- John Kerry
- Alejandro Inarritu
- activists, and
- everyone you wish you could.
All care. All have hope. Not many have effective solutions.
What the movie does
The movie brings the current state of affairs to your living room, visually beautiful and relevant.
The movie isn't about forefront science. Though it shows deniers, we're past questions if this is happening and have been for decades.
The movie is about us, our behavior, and the consequences we know about. We can choose to deny and suppress the consequences we know we're causing or we can face them. It shows that we're beyond wondering if.
It's also about a global system supporting a way of life and development that no person, no matter how concerned or passionate, can affect significantly. Not even a group of people as famous and connected as Di Caprio, Scorsese, Reznor, Stevens, and their supporters. Not even presidents and Popes.
The movie's strength is showing Di Caprio's growing awareness and passion to help. It shows he sees he's a part of the problem.
What the movie misses
For all his concern and passion, Di Caprio doesn't change his behavior to reduce his pollution. Leadership is fundamentally about behavior.
To deniers who don't accept the science can attack his credibility through his lack of science background, he can quote scientists and their results.
But he's flying around the world with whole teams of people, each flight comparable to a year of driving per person, generally contributing more than nearly any human who has ever lived. He can change his behavior. It doesn't happen, at least not in the movie.
His vague awareness of the problem and reflection on society never translates through reflection on himself to acute awareness of what he can do. Flying in helicopters over an ice-less arctic and burning tropical jungles, one can argue, is necessary to document what's happening.
But doesn't everyone everywhere, when consuming resources, justify to themselves that, while yes this particular behavior releases CO2, in this particular case, it's worth it?
The movie shows the Paris Agreement's signing as a success, but governments follow popular interests and the United States' population isn't showing popular interest in changing its behavior for the government to follow, even independent of a president-elect who calls it a hoax following the movie's release.
The movie shows our planet's Eden and the Mordors we are creating in it. If Di Caprio, Scorsese, Reznor, Stevens, and their colleagues want to influence others to keep that Eden, if they want to lead others beyond pictures to changing behavior, they need to lead themselves.
Critics can attack Di Caprio's credibility for not knowing science, but they couldn't if he changed his behavior to pollute less. If he could than others could.
As the movie stands, many viewers may conclude:
If he can see all these problems and still gallivant around the world seeing its beauty before it disappears even if he knows he's destroying it in the process, I should too! ... If telling people about that beauty helps preserve it, I'll tell people too.
Then I'll be an environmentalist too!
Without leading himself, Di Caprio risks leading people to continue unchanged themselves--the opposite of his goal.
The challenge for his next work might be to go beyond vague awareness to personal change. Something tells me this team could show that they can consume and pollute a lot less while still being just as happy.
That would be leadership we could all follow.