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Before the Flood
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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Before the Flood is a documentary about Earth's climate crisis. It follows U.N. Messenger of Peace Leonardo DiCaprio as he travels the world, looking into various problems and possible solutions. The movie offers quite a bit of information that's both alarming and hopeful. DiCaprio is portrayed as an empathetic, curious role model who's helping to lead the world in the fight to save the future. Expect some disturbing imagery related to the planet's possible future; discussions of what could happen -- and is already happening -- to the planet could upset younger viewers. There's also a bit of strong language, including "ass," "son of a bitch," and "damn."
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What's the story?
BEFORE THE FLOOD is a documentary that follows Oscar winner/U.N. Messenger of Peace Leonardo DiCaprio as he travels the world, looking at the state of climate change. Much of what he finds is devastating, including flooding in Miami (temporarily staved off by expensive pumps) and forests in Indonesia being leveled to make palm oil, which is now used in most processed foods. He learns that the situation has become urgent, but he also finds hope by speaking with scientists and world leaders. And he hears about things that every citizen of Earth can begin doing right away to help. But will big corporations and deniers of science try to put a stop to that?
Is it any good?
This is one of many documentaries about climate change; many aren't much fun, but with DiCaprio at its center, this one offers crucial, current information, as well as a measure of hope. Actor/producer Fisher Stevens, who won an Oscar for his powerful dolphin documentary The Cove, directs Before the Flood, beginning with a reference to Bosch's painting The Garden of Earthly Delights and then traveling all over the world. DiCaprio starts out with a pessimistic outlook, but he keeps an open mind as he meets and talks with politicians, specialists, and scientists. He finds that, while problems persist, there are also many solutions that have begun to be implemented.
For example, viewers learn that simply by eating less beef, we could save enormous amounts of resources used to feed cattle (not to mention lessen the incredible amounts of methane gas they emit). Viewers are also told that it would help if companies were required to pay a tax on carbon emissions will help. (Stevens' production paid a voluntary carbon tax.) If you saw -- or didn't see -- An Inconvenient Truth, Chasing Ice, Merchants of Doubt, or others, then you should see this. Overall, it's one of the most universal and possibly most helpful and hopeful of the recent climate change documentaries.
Talk to your kids about ...
How is this movie different from other documentaries about climate change? How is it similar? Do you have to agree with its perspective/point of view to find it interesting and educational?
What does the movie suggest that individuals do to help the climate situation?
Does the way DiCaprio comes across in the movie change your opinion of him? Do you think it was intended to? Do you consider him a role model? How does he exhibit the character strengths of empathy and curiosity in the film?
- In theaters: October 21, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: April 18, 2017
- Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Barack Obama, John Kerry
- Director: Fisher Stevens
- Studio: National Geographic
- Genre: Documentary
- Topics: Science and Nature
- Character Strengths: Curiosity, Empathy
- Run time: 96 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: thematic elements, some nude and suggestive art images, language and brief smoking
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