Documentary Review: Studying and preserving Coral Reefs is “Saving Atlantis”

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If you travel to dive or snorkel around coral reefs, you probably hear the same refrain I do when I hit the water in Key West, St. Croix or Curacao.

“You should’ve seen it 20 years ago!”

Actually, the guide or dive boat operator missed out, too. They and we should have seen the world’s reefs 50 years ago. In that time, Peter Coyote narrates in “Saving Atlantis,” “more than 50% of them have vanished.”

“Saving Atlantis is a documentary that takes us around the world for a State of the Coral report, and a survey of some of the efforts being made to study and save the “vanishing” bleaching reefs.

We’re shown the Great Barrier Reef off Australia, reefs in the Red Sea, in French Polynesia, reefs off Oregon and a huge one in the mouth of Cartegena Bay, Colombia.

Fishermen talk about how important they are to their livelihood and the world’s fish stocks. Scientists talk about their role in fostering healthy life in the sea, and in protecting shorelines from destructive shore erosion during storms.

The water’s getting too hot, too acidic, for reefs. But some corals can withstand it, and if enough is done to combat pollution and climate change, others say, the reefs will come back.

That’s the hopeful part of “Saving Atlantis,” the scientists around the world mapping the coral gene pool to help determine which corals are the hardiest in this warming climate, capturing samples of corals that might go extinct before we do enough to save them.

“We should continue to act until it’s too late,” one marine biologist declares. “You should never give up on reefs.”

This Oregon State University coral reef documentary doesn’t have the impressive visuals of the BBC’s “Nature” series, or that of the gorgeous films shot in large format video for IMAX movies shown in science museums and the like.

But it’s a fairly thorough survey of all that’s going wrong, and many of the efforts underway worldwide to save, seed and repopulate eco systems that are vital to our diet and the safety of our shores as the seas rise and the storms surge.

Oregon State — it’s not just about football.

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MPAA Rating: unrated

Cast: Narrated by Peter Coyote.

Credits: Directed by David Baker and Justin R. Smith, script by David Baker. A Gravitas Ventures release.

Running time: 1:30

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