In ‘Chasing Coral’ on Netflix, Eagle Scout filmmaker documents coral reef decline

Eagle Scout Jeff Orlowski will travel to the ends of the earth to document the ways our planet is transforming.

For his award-winning 2012 documentary Chasing Ice, he visited disappearing glaciers in Greenland, Iceland and Alaska.

For his 2017 follow-up, Chasing Coral, Orlowski traveled somewhere completely different: underwater. The documentary debuts on Netflix today.

Orlowski talked to experts who say that a two-degree rise in global water temperatures is causing coral to die.

But seeing is believing, and so Orlowski and his team spent more than three years visiting 30 different countries to document changes in coral. They spent more than 650 hours underwater.

Along the way, Orlowski met the inventors of a special time-lapse camera that can show stressed-out coral turning white over time — a process known as coral bleaching that typically kills the coral.

Stressed-out coral? Yes, that’s a real thing. It’s worth remembering that corals aren’t plants. They’re animals.

In Chasing Coral, Orlowski uses a macro lens to give us extreme close-ups of these fascinating creatures. Coral looks like something from outer space, but it’s from our world.

When these marine invertebrates experience changes in temperature, light or nutrients, they turn white and, if nothing is done to reverse the process, die off completely. In Chasing Coral, Orlowski shows this transformation through stunning photography and startling suspense.

Early reviews of Chasing Coral are very strong.

The Hollywood Reporter said: “Even for those limited to swimming virtually among parrot fish and sea turtles over vast marine ecosystems of astonishing color and complexity, this superbly crafted documentary is likely to wield an unexpected emotional charge.”

Chasing the story

National Eagle Scout Association members might recognize Orlowski’s name. He was featured on the cover of the Winter 2014 issue of Eagles’ Call, NESA’s official magazine.

In that story, which you can read here, Orlowski discusses how he traveled to remote glaciers to document their demise for Chasing Ice.

“We are really shifting people’s opinions,” Orlowski told writer Mark Ray. “They come and see the film, and they leave the theater understanding what’s going on for the first time. We’ve seen very, very profound shifts in audience members after one exposure to the film.”

Orlowski screened Chasing Ice at Sundance as well as for Congress, the White House and the United Nations. The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song (“Before My Time,” performed by Scarlett Johansson and Joshua Bell) and won a 2014 News and Documentary Emmy Award for Outstanding Nature Programming.

Chasing Coral trailer

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