Sundance 2017: Heartbreaking, Urgent Documentary 'Chasing Coral'

January 24, 2017

Chasing Coral Trailer

I didn't think watching amazing footage of coral dying would make me so emotional, but it did. I was wiping away tears through this fantastic documentary, Chasing Coral, the follow-up to Jeff Orlowski's Chasing Ice. Orlowski is a very passionate, extremely talented filmmaker who not only dives deep into his projects, but knows how to make an engaging and encouraging documentary. Chasing Coral documents Orlowski's mission to capture time-lapse footage of coral in the ocean being bleached due to rising water temperature, which is caused by the excessive amount of fossil fuels we're burning. Not only does he get the footage, he crafts a gripping narrative around chasing coral and ends with a enthusiastic call for action. Go see this doc.

I've seen pretty much every last climate documentary made over the last few years, and many of them are too depressing or don't have enough hope in them (as was the case with Al Gore's An Inconvenient Sequel, which also premiered at Sundance 2017). That's not the case with Chasing Coral, this is an example of how to make an outstanding climate change doc that not only engages and enrages viewers, but spurs them into action. It's full of utterly gorgeous underwater imagery from oceans around the world, footage you've likely never seen before that will make your jaw drop. And the people they profile, the various scientists and coral nerds and other activists, are so captivating and charming. All of this put together makes the film stand out.

In Chasing Ice (another doc worth watching), filmmaker Jeff Orlowski dedicated his life to figure out how to photograph the melting of the ice caps in order to show everyone how alarming climate change is. It's happening so fast, and it's happening out of our view, in places most people never go or never see. Orlowski picks up where he left off with that film, and in Chasing Coral takes on another adventure underwater to show us how coral bleaching events are destroying the ecosystem of the ocean, and it's truly scary. As I've mentioned, I wasn't expecting to feel so emotional about watching coral dying, but man, it really got to me. It's not just the footage, it's how he presents it. The story unfolds over years, and by the end you'll realize we're running out of time. This is urgent. We need to do something about this (stop using fossil fuels) now.

On top of all the footage, Chasing Coral also features a wonderful score by Dan Romer (of Beasts of the Southern Wild) and Saul Simon MacWilliams. It's a powerful climate change documentary that doesn't rely on anger or panic, it takes its time to draw us into its world and teach us about what is going before showing us what's happening (and how bad it is). It introduces us to passionate, lovable people who care deeply about this planet we live on and how we can keep it healthy. And it reminds everyone that it's up to us to do something about this problem, and that we need to wake up and see what's going on. Thank you, Jeff Orlowski and everyone involved in this, for making me feel passionate (again) about saving this planet.

Alex's Sundance 2017 Rating: 9.5 out of 10
Follow Alex on Twitter - @firstshowing

Find more posts: Documentaries, Review, Sundance 17



I love movies. This is nothing but climate change propaganda. Blech.

william serob on Jan 25, 2017


It's about how we (humans) are destroying the planet...not propaganda. Fact.

TheOct8pus on Jan 25, 2017


More like a combination of religion, propaganda and Fascist dogma. Anyone who dares speak against it is aggressively attacked. Triple bleh. Is that how science works in your oct8pus world? Oct8pus is a perfect name for your type; you can't stand up for your self and are easily molded by others. Keep it.

william serob on Jan 25, 2017


This is neither religion, propaganda or dogma (let alone fascist).... and judging by your Disqus comments you have a lot to say about those 3 subjects... This is about nature, and what we people are doing to it. I've been diving in Hawaii and Australia for almost 10 years now, and in that short period of time I've seen more and more blanched (dead) coral, more tumor ridden turtles (who are highly sensitive toward chemical runoff) and more garbage floating around every year. I'm not molded by what other have said. I have seen it and it's the truth. ...and it's not just the oceans that are filled with your and my pollution. There are cities where the smog is so bad on certain days that people are advised not to go outside. I grew up in a city where some days the air pollution is so bad you're only allowed to drive a car with an even license plate number one day, and an odd license plate the next day... It's not about politics or science. it's about reality. It's literally in your face when you walk out of the house. So, enjoy your denial. The planet is doing great. Animals are doing fine. The air and water is pristine.

TheOct8pus on Jan 25, 2017


You're not listening. My position is not in support trashing the oceans. Not at all. My position IS about the "science" of global warming. In a nutshell, It's not science if you can't question it, and if you do, you're labeled a pariah. Plain and simple. That's not science, it's religion or propaganda and it's fascist to attack those that question the "official" position.

william serob on Jan 25, 2017


I stand by all my old posts.

william serob on Jan 25, 2017


Here's the thing; propaganda has a definition, and a meaning. You can Google "propaganda techniques" for lists of recognized characteristics of propaganda. Just calling something propaganda over and over again doesn't make that thing into propaganda, but it is a technique of propaganda to tell the same lie over and over again. So far, the only propaganda I've seen here is yours. Science holds exact the fit inferred from all observation with least assumption, exception or omission possible, but no more than possible, until new observation leads to amended or new fit. That's the opposite of propaganda. Science can't not be settled; the whole "science isn't settled" meme was manufactured by Strom Thurmond decades ago -- you're getting your information about how science 'ought' work from a dead grade six dropout politician renowned for his corruption and ignorance. There are almost 100,000 hits on Google Scholar for "CO2 Climate" since 2016; that's a mountain of scientific evidence built on decades of research much larger than that for the Higgs Boson, extrasolar planets, dark matter, dark energy, black holes, gravity waves and general relativity combined. And while it's true that some fraction of the death of coral is measured to be from other human activities -- notably phosphate pollution that deprives water of oxygen and creates dead zones, but also contamination of other sorts -- than the fossil waste dumping that is the measured and confirmed cause of global warming, acidification, crop nutrient density loss and soil fertility degradation requiring application of nitrates and phosphates, the simple sane fact is that if the world got off fossil energy in favor of cheaper renewables like geothermal electric, hydroelectric at environmentally sustainable scales, wind, solar and biomass, we'd have stronger economies, less reliance on blood oil from war zones, and living coral where now there is none because of fossil waste dumpers who never pay what they owe for the damage they do. Nor do people who Dr. Elisabet Kubler-Ross would describe as in denial throwing around words like propaganda suffer knowledge deficit; the world can't fix what is wrong with a denier by presenting fact and evidence -- the more proof there is, the more they will feel vindicated in their belief that they are being attacked by facts and those who supply them. The only cure is to pay what you owe for the fossil waste dumping you do, whether your miserly feelings are hurt or not, because that's what grown ups do: we take responsibility and step up to our debts.

Bart_R on Jan 29, 2017


Key-rihst. Referring to the oceans, back in the thread you'll see I support the GIVE A HOOT DON'T POLLUTE idea. I totally disagree that CO2 is a poison. There's a mountain of research, by well respected individuals who support my position also. Science is always and only; settled for today. That's why every year new studies come out that challenge old conclusions.

william serob on Jan 29, 2017


What's your point again? That you're somehow an environmentalist? I'm not. Environmentalism is #FAIL. Every year more habitat is lost and more species go extinct avoidably, despite all the mouthing of holy writ by environmentalists who lack the spine to do the simple things that will avoid these results, and at lower cost. So what you support? Meaningless. And while you claim support for your position, you cannot claim your position is the fit with least assumption, exception or omission that science has inferred from all observation: your position is simply wrong. Period. Come up with new observation that leads to amended or new fit; something that all of the 'respected individuals' you claim support you have failed to do with their molehill that you make too much out of. It is not the length of time that determines whether to amend or replace the exact inference of science, whether a day or a year, but only that new observation that overcomes the fit that withstands the test of least assumption, exception or omission to fit all observation. So be it today, or next year, or forever, we avoid paralysis by analysis when we hold the inference we have now to be exact. Your way leads nowhere, and is just what you cling to in your miserly denial of the harms you do. Pay what you owe.

Bart_R on Jan 29, 2017


Data manipulation to artificially cool temperatures. Alarmist decrees of Hottest year every" when in fact it's within the margin of error and ignores the fact that measuring technology is more sensitive than 30 years ago. Ice caps that aren't receding. Polar bear populations that are doing just fine thank you. Severe weather predictions that haven't come true and if the number of reported storms argument is made, there's good counter arguments. I look for dialogue and debate; your statement "your position is simply wrong. Period." is all I need to know about you. Period.

william serob on Jan 29, 2017


There is no data manipulation - NASA (who does not manipulate data) has compiled hundreds of years of temperatures to prove that we are no longer in the margin of error. You are a narrow-minded ignorant idiot if you continue to refuse to see the objective truth and go with your own unfounded narrative of nonsense. You do not look for dialogue or debate, that is a boldfaced lie, you look only for whatever satisfies your beliefs - which are misguided and proven, by scientists the world over, to be completely unquestionably wrong. See NASA's data here:

Alex Billington on Jan 29, 2017


Responding to this is unnecessary, a waste of my time. NASA does not manipulate data. Your mind manipulates the truth.

Alex Billington on Jan 30, 2017


By the way, I enjoy your reviews on First Showing.

william serob on Jan 30, 2017


Yeah, thought so. Deadbeats will write or do anything, however absurd, to avoid facing their fossil debts. You won't get debate from me at all. Debate is the primitive exercise of political classes to make the worse case seem better, and so has no place in scientific discussion. Thus your 'good counter arguments' (by your own assessment) are meaningless. Your claims of what is or isn't true, or doing just fine, or receding, or sensitive, or ignored, or within any margin, or alarmist or artificial, simply are meaningless. You want to dialogue, that's great. Dialogue about how you plan to pay what you owe for the fossil waste dumping you do. Until you're willing to face your debts honestly and honorably, why should anyone dialogue with you?

Bart_R on Jan 29, 2017


You put yourself on a pretty high pedestal Bart. Tell me what I debt I owe Bart. Tell me. You can't. Calling facts that cast doubt on the claims of global warming alarmists simply meaningless is typical of religious zealots.

william serob on Jan 30, 2017


Pedestal? Pedestal!? Paying what a man owes is the base level of a man. Any grown up does it. If you think you need a pedestal to not be a deadbeat, to pay what you owe, you have to ask yourself how badly you plan to keep failing those who raised you. You think it's religious zealotry to honor your responsibilities and pay your debts? What an entitled, miserly, bankrupt, irresponsible attitude you present to the world. What is fossil CO2 emission, a byproduct of combustion, released into the air but fossil waste dumping? Do you think all those gallons disappear from your gas tank? Of course they're being dumped once the ephemeral, transient energy stored in the reaction of fossil with oxygen is complete. Of course that dumping into other peoples' air is absorbed into the water of other people's rivers, lakes, oceans and ponds to be weathered into the dirt of other peoples' land, costing other people scarce weathering capacity, or transforming into organic carbon and sequestered by falling eventually out of reach of free oxygen, again on other peoples' land. Scarce weathering and sequestering, those are fruits of other peoples' property you're trespassing on. You owe them money at Market rates for scarcity rents. Nothing about the price of those rents has anything to do with your claims of doubt; but only ought be set by the Law of Supply and Demand on the Market. That Law is being broken by governments that fail to privatize fossil waste disposal. A man finds a wallet and keeps the cash without trying to find the proper owner because he doubts it's worth his while to find out, and he's afraid of alarms, he's no better than a thief. How are you any different? Pay what you owe.

Bart_R on Jan 30, 2017


You didn't answer my question. What do I owe? Better yet. Tell us all the steps you have done to pay your debt. Surely you walk the walk right? Bet you own a Prius or similar car. So beyond that, enlighten me. What can I do that you have also done?

william serob on Jan 30, 2017


You didn't answer the question everyone ought ask themselves. And yes, absolutely I walk the walk of looking for the owner of every wallet I pick up, instead of pocketing the cash. You? If you're really so benighted as to not understand how to audit your own debts, you start by going to the Market and finding out the price of goods you're planning to get from their owners. In the case of fossil waste dumping, nothing's stopping you from going to one of the carbon exchanges. In Socialist Canada, for example, it's even easier: the federal government there has required every Province to charge an escalating fee to reach $50/ton by 2022. In BC, the place with the longest and strongest of the fossil fees, it's been happening since 2008, and every penny goes to taxpayers, reducing personal and business income tax rates over 25%, some of the lowest taxes in North America. That's right, a third of taxes in North America go to letting you fossil waste dumpers get away with theft from your neighbors. Myself, I prefer the Free Market, because Capitalism is more efficient at allocating scarcity.

Bart_R on Jan 30, 2017


without doubt I return a wallet if I find it, I give back excess change if given to me by a cashier and I teach my kids to do the same. But that's totally irrelevant. For the second time; What do YOU do to pay your debt? Hey, we agree on our preference for the free market! Please answer the question. I'm seriously interested.

william serob on Jan 30, 2017


Seriously sounds like you feel entitled to have answers handed to you instead of doing the work of answering them for yourself. I recommend you move to Canada, where the government can do your thinking for you, if you can't stand on your own two feet and need a Nanny State to clean up your messes for you. It's easy to get off fossil in this world, and more economical. There isn't a brand of motorcycle that doesn't have a superior EV offering on the market today, or a category of car or truck; renewable electricity is easy and cheaper than fossil. Efficient technology is more current and reliable. What do I do? I think about the price signal that ought to be there when I make lifetime cost decisions about my purchases, and I invest in lifetime value.

Bart_R on Jan 30, 2017


given that vague answer I assume you don't do anything drastically different than I do. THINKING about it isnt going to pay your debt.

william serob on Jan 30, 2017


All these multi-replies. Clearly, you're feeling guilty about the debt you're acquired as a deadbeat, and are having trouble wriggling free of your sense of obligations. Bravo to your parents for instilling that much in you. Shame it doesn't seem to have taken root.

Bart_R on Jan 30, 2017


when confronted with having to put up or shut up, you have nothing. As I suspected.

william serob on Jan 30, 2017


Why would anyone have to put anything up at all to satisfy a selfish deadbeat's sense of entitlement? Criticise those who are paid in full after your accounts are square. Pay what you owe.

Bart_R on Jan 30, 2017


you and I are exactly alike. Neither of us has made any serious lifestyle changes to support our position. Give up Bart. Have you paid? Show me your receipt or quit lying.

william serob on Jan 30, 2017


Blah. Blah. Blah. It's everyone else's fault but yours. You don't owe anything until everyone else shows you their receipts. /sarc Grow up.

Bart_R on Jan 30, 2017


Do you get tired from running in circles to avoid answering the question at hand? Tell you what, I'll have one less bon fire this summer, and I'll turn the tv off before I fall asleep at night. Paid in full.

william serob on Jan 30, 2017


Wood fires have nothing to do with it; only fossil wastes contribute to the problem. Still we see deadbeats will say anything to dodge facing their debts. Pay what you owe.

Bart_R on Jan 30, 2017


The EPA wants to limit wood fires in the Alaskan interior. You don't know that???? Your tree hugger friends are obviously concerned. Paid in full.

william serob on Jan 30, 2017


Like I care about the EPA. You seem to think you're so much like me, but don't know the EPA is nothing to me? You're just another leech, suckling at the Nanny State and hiding whenever the bill comes due.

Bart_R on Jan 30, 2017


This generally goes on for a while. Deadbeats squirming on the line, until their nerve fails and they run and hide. But until they do, ample opportunity to remind readers who happen by that fossil waste dumping trespasses on your land, uses up your scarce goods, and those dumpers are taking from you what's yours without paying. Collect what they owe you.

Bart_R on Jan 30, 2017


I'm not surprised by your inability to provide examples of how you walk the walk beyond "investing in lifetime value". It seems the people the preach the most often times make the least sacrifice. Protesters and zealots that don't even cast a vote at election time, celebrities and elites who own audacious houses, cars, planes etc that waste more energy and emit more pollutants than regular people. You're quickly falling into that category.

william serob on Jan 30, 2017


Funny. When the Oracle of Omaha uses the phrase "invest in lifetime value", smart money people can run with that. You seem to want everything handed to you all neatly wrapped up. Were you an only child? Pigeonhole people you know nothing about rantingly on your own time. Pay what you owe.

Bart_R on Jan 30, 2017


Are you aware that plants (unsure if it's ALL plants) thrive at CO2 levels that are higher than current atmospheric levels. To take advantage of that fact commercial greenhouses artificial inflate CO2 levels.

william serob on Jan 30, 2017


Are you aware that crop nutrient density and soil fertility drop as CO2 concentrations increase; both plants and soil microbes with more CO2 stimulus consume other nutrients faster and divert them to weedy rampant growth from higher quality reproductive nutrient storage? I come from a family of greenhouse growers, though I didn't stay with the family business myself; management of CO2 level is a serious business not for the ill-informed: if you want to spoil a crop too little CO2 or too much will do the trick, and levels of CO2 in the artificial conditions of a greenhouse are nothing like what plants in the open produce best results with. You should stop getting crop nutrition information from comic books. And pay what you owe.

Bart_R on Jan 30, 2017


I'm not a farmer and don't come from a family of greenhouse growers, but I assume there are methods to manage variations in soil fertility, crop rotation, fertilizer etc, heck even slash and burn has been effective in the past.

william serob on Jan 30, 2017


Of course there are methods. It's called pouring money out on the fields in the form of chemicals and irrigation, drainage and heat relief. Are you going to pay farmers to cover the cost of the harm your fossil waste dumping does?

Bart_R on Jan 30, 2017


I won't be dumping anything. Hence, I owe nothing. Paid in full.

william serob on Jan 30, 2017


The more you write, the more how much is wrong with you becomes clear. Pay what you owe.

Bart_R on Jan 30, 2017


That's barely a coherent sentence. Paid in full.

william serob on Jan 30, 2017


Cringe less. Own up to your debts more.

Bart_R on Jan 30, 2017


You must moonlight as a protest poster wordsmith

william serob on Jan 30, 2017


The sounds of Capitalism are so strange to the ears of deadbeats.

Bart_R on Jan 30, 2017


Whether or not climate change is real or not, a dead ocean means no fish, which means many people starving to death or migrating, a lot of them incredibly poor. So far the response to the Syrian refugees has been pretty poor, who came from a conflict created from civil unrest, because migrants from farming communities couldn't grow food in the the soil that couldn't produce crops because of the climate in that region changing, they flooded the cities, overloaded the system and it collapsed. Whether or not humans are causing it isn't the problem, being able to deal with it is. Some of my friends believe it is a racket to get people to pay more taxes. But plastic in the water is now being found in our blood stream from eating fish, so we something has to be done about that, do you think?

Carpola on Jan 25, 2017


Dude....don't even bother with this guy. I shouldn't have wasted my time addressing him....just check out his comment history.

TheOct8pus on Jan 25, 2017


choosing to live your life in an echo chamber, in which all you hear are opinions that mirror yours is typical of the plague of close-mindedness I see today. Keep your mind open, address those who oppose you, in a respectful way, and your life will be richer.

william serob on Jan 25, 2017


that's a pretty broad response, most of it not related to my point that climate change movies are propaganda. that in no way means I support polluting, I just don't support the position that man is the primary driver of an impending change in climate. the earth has gone thru numerous (10+) cycles of cold (glacial coverage of large swaths of land) then warm. It happens. Just cuz we know have evolved into beings that assign cause and effect to what we see, doesn't mean we are the cause. Plus, don't confuse "climate" with weather. I suspect any poor growing conditions in Syria are due to prolonged changes in weather; like a multiyear drought. Which is different from a change in climate.

william serob on Jan 25, 2017


Do you not think man has any part in the change of the climate at all, or just a little bit? In the future people will have to deal with it either way, even if it is a hoax aimed at getting money, millions of people will still be displaced as regions dry up or from coastal areas that are flooded. So you wouldn't even watch this, just to see what it was about? I reckon the underwater footage enough would be worth checking.

Carpola on Jan 25, 2017


I have climate change "preachiness fatigue". I'm saddened that no one can have a rational discussion. I'm saddened that attacking opposing viewpoints is accepted because the "science is settled". Every single year, there are new science reports that contradict previous reports. That's science, it keeps investigating, questioning, And I can't take another preachy celeb or Natgeo special or movie to tell me "we're at the tipping point". Rubbish. With all the extreme climate changes that have occurred over earths history, if anything, it's shown us how resilient it is. I think man has a negligible impact if any on climate. I'm all for give a hoot don't pollute, but do I think we can influence the weather? let alone do it for enough years to be considered influencing the climate? No. In the past oceans have been considerably higher than today. They've been lower than they are today. My home state was once covered in a glacier. It retreated. Greenland was greener than it is today. The planet has been warmer in the past. It's been colder. Suddenly assigning blame to humanity, and labeling CO2, which is one of THE essential cornerstones of live on this planet; a poison?! Beyond ridiculous. I agree, don't polllute, treat the earth with respect, but if glaciers are melting, well, all that means to me is they're STILL melting; starting long ago. I'm open minded enough to listen to the other side, but it's rare anyone with a opposite view will do the same.

william serob on Jan 25, 2017


I'm sorry, but you are COMPLETELY wrong. And it is YOU who is not listening to the IRREFUTABLE evidence and science that climate change IS real, and fossil fuels (and humans) are the direct cause of it. There is not actually ANY "new science" every year. Every year, the science continues to prove the FACTS that climate change is directly caused by humans. You are totally insane if you refuse to actually see the reality. The "new science" you are referring to is fake news, and fabricated stories generated by the oil industry lobbyists. It is NOT real. You are tired of it because you don't want to admit you have been wrong all of these years and don't want to admit that it's time we need to change and stop what we've been doing. That's why you are refusing to accept the truth.

Alex Billington on Jan 25, 2017


I'm with Alex on this one. I work for an engineering firm as a community consultant and I work everyday with Hazmat crews. If you think we aren't doing most of the damage then my man you need to see some of the shit I see on a weekly basis. I've been called to spills from Oil to Coco Cola factories who short cut everything for profits and end up releasing foreign chemicals into the environment. Then we have to come in to try to clean it up but the problem is the damage is already done. It's not just the CO2 that is the problem. It is a wide range of foreign materials that we introduce into the environment everyday. Before you say the earth has been through these cycles before, the demand that we put on the earth is on a scale never seen before. There has never been a predator at the top of the food chain to these scales. I've been to bee farms as well. You try telling those farmers about the fact that climate change is a load of bull and they will straight up sock you in the face. I too myself never really cared much for climate change but after being in my job for the past 8 years it really opens your eyes up. The problem is people choose to be ignorant about it and a lot of the studies that deny climate change are done by huge corporations who have a vested interest in denying climate change. I am lucky enough to live in Australia and have made the trip up a few times to see the Great Barrier Reef and the marine scientists up there are adamant that the bleaching of this scale is beyond natural. The coral usually go through a cycle where it naturally occurs but not to this scale. People just need to actually start giving a crap. I for one would recommend to anyone to visit the reef. It will be gone in a decade at this rate.

TK on Jan 26, 2017


Thank you for all you do and for this post!!!!

Suzanne Vreeland on Jul 24, 2017


I helped film for this movie. I was one of the volunteers travelling around the world, paying for my travels myself, and going underwater with my camera, hoping to see the contrary. I can send you some original photos and videos if you would like. No matter how many times you will say "propaganda", the truth is the corals are dying, and I and over 100 other volunteers who participated have the very evidence on our hard drives.

Beata Lerman on Jan 26, 2017


Thank you so very much!!! Incredible film and call to action!!! My 13yo daughter and I watched it riveted and very moved. We are ready to take action!

Suzanne Vreeland on Jul 24, 2017


I have been reading about the death of the coral reefs for years. Sadly, it seems no one will care when they go away simply because they cannot see the reefs' beauty.

DAVIDPD on Jan 25, 2017


Fantastic movie. Will be out on Netflix later this year. Reading these comments, I am struck by how many people allowed one climate change denier to hijack the conversation. Don't think he even watched the movie. Next time, politely nod at these fools and continue the dialogue with the other sentient beings in the room. Expend your energy and efforts on those who have made a decision to read the science and take action to avert disaster. Coordinate action understanding that the human species includes dimwits and ostriches, and always will. Plan accordingly.

Marmotmo on Mar 6, 2017


Outstanding film and immediate call to action! Very big thank you to Jeff and all involved! Also to Netflix which will allow for a spread of general viewing. My 13yo daughter saw it listed and suggested we watch. We both sat riveted and very moved. The urgency requires demands made EN MASSE, to change what we're doing, now!! Solar panelling, hybrid cars etc should be subsidized and enforced. Monies should be pulled from less urgent areas and pooled and funneled into this effort. Could we have NASA hold back on space exploration and redirect efforts to clean energy for a while? Digital gazillionaires could help. DT needs to be removed.

Suzanne Vreeland on Jul 24, 2017

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