STRATEGIC CINEMA Stills from Ice on Fire
In the Netflix comedy Always Be My Maybe, a girl chooses to stay on in Keanu Reeves’ home instead of leaving with her boyfriend:
- I’m not going to miss my chance to talk to Keanu about the community centre. You can’t change the world without influential people.
- So you need to know famous people in order to make a difference?
- It helps. Look at everything Leonardo DiCaprio has done for climate change. - What has he done for climate change? - He’s working on it.
In his co-produced Before the Flood (2016), DiCaprio was an observer/ investigative journalist and took on the science, politics and economics of climate change. The film had a holier-than-thou feel to it. DiCaprio was hyper-visible and not shy to provide commentary, comparing deforestation to Mordor. Now available on Hotstar, Ice on Fire, co-produced and narrated by DiCaprio, is different precisely because he is unobtrusive. The film seems to consciously avoid the usual tropes of a climate change documentary. Admittedly, DiCaprio does narrate sternly as operatic music accompanies moving glaciers and interviewees speak with either an American earnestness or in European
accents about science.
But then something happens: the things scientists say eclipse the dramatic devices. What kept me hooked was neither the morality play nor the scepticism of it, but what I was learning—several species have changed their migratory patterns due to changes in surface temperature; if you feed seaweed to cows, there’s a 90 per cent reduction in their methane emissions; there are companies that can store carbon dioxide as stone; producing electricity from seawater is viable; and photosynthesis can now be artificially conducted in labs.
The film takes hold despite the narrator and viewer. At the very least, this is strategic film-making, but I’d like to think this is also an interesting political comment: squabbles on human contribution or priorities of the current US government are quite uninteresting. Like DiCaprio, Donald Trump does not make a visual appearance, but his endorsement of coal features as an audio track very briefly.
When the film ends with DiCaprio declaring it’s up to each one of us, I’m momentarily tempted to pick a fight on north vs south, individuals vs industries. This temptation passes and, instead, I google whether Biochar is indeed the solution.