TIFF 2016: Before the Flood Review

TIFF Docs

In 2014 Leonardo DiCaprio was appointed a UN Messenger for Peace representative on climate change. It’s a role that you don’t hear about very often, but other current celebrity UN Messengers of Peace include Michael Douglas, Charlize Theron, Edward Norton, Jane Goodall, Stevie Wonder and Yo Yo Ma. Leo was unsure how to fulfil the position at first, and this documentary was his answer.

Enter actor turned Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Fisher Stevens (Short Circuit, The Cove), who creates sort of a ‘Beginners Guide to Climate Change’ as he follows Leo around the world to speak with different experts. It’s clear that Leo’s celebrity (aided by his newly minted UN status) pretty much gave them an all access pass to anywhere they wanted to go, and despite the disconcerting things they see and learn, it looks like they had a pretty good time doing it. From riding in a helicopter over Canadian tar sands, watching narwhals around the polar ice caps, and playing with endangered monkeys, to chatting with President Obama and the Pope, Leo seems more amused by it all than concerned. At least he’s honest when he acknowledges that most Americans aren’t going to change the lifestyles they’ve come accustomed to, with a glint in his eye says he’s probably thinking about his own collection of cars, boats and whatever other luxuries he indulges in.

I suppose it would have been pretty depressing to just be all ‘the end is nigh’ about the subject and much nicer to show the things we should be trying harder to preserve, but it still feels a little flippant at times. Like a student giving a presentation on what he’s learned, Leo sums it all up at the end in an impassioned speech to the UN prior to the signing of the Paris Climate Change Agreement last April. Here Leo’s skills as an entertainer really shine, and his orations skills were clearly in top form following awards season for The Revenant.

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So The Turning Point, as it was called before the last minute change to the equally generic Before the Flood, is Leo’s message to the world (or at least his fans) on what climate change is and a few of the things we can do to help combat it. It’s doubtful that the film will have any kind of real impact, but you have to give the guy credit for trying. Maybe now the UN will finally update his bio, which still says “Leonardo DiCaprio, an award-winning actor and a four-time Academy Award® nominee…”

Screening:

Friday Sept. 16, 9:00am @ Scotiabank 2

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