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Saving the Earth, One Beautiful Documentary at a Time

Making documentaries about the earth’s fragility may have at one time been a unique idea. Al Gore needed only a dramatized slideshow, and we’ve all admired a crazy beautiful IMAX film or Planet Earth DVD set by this point.

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That was made all the more clear at the TED Conference today, where two talks in succession both presented new fantastically beautiful documentaries. Even more of a coincidence, they were both made by French filmmakers. Though one is perhaps more interesting to the NewTeeVee audience, as it’s going to be released primarily online.

The first, Oceans by Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud (of Winged Migration), is the culmination of eight years and $75 million of work filming the underwater world, including developing new filmmaking techniques that allowed cameras to move alongside animals underwater. It was hard to believe the 9-minute preview shown at the conference wasn’t computer generated. Truly stunning stuff.

That Yann Arthus-Bertrand, renowned for his photographs of the earth from above, came next, attenuated the impact of his own beautiful nature documentary, called Home. Another massive project, the message here is “Our life is tied to the well-being of our planet,” said Arthus-Bertrand. But what’s cool and different about this film, and dramatically innovative in its own way, is that he will be distributing it on the Internet for free with no copyright. It’s meant to be a call to action. “There’s no business on this movie,” Arthus-Bertrand said. “We have to believe what we know…It’s too late to be pessimistic.”

Faith in the power of a moving picture is of course an easy sell among filmmakers… and expensive movies and talks at elite conferences aren’t necessarily making the world a healthier place (Arthus-Bertrand started his talk by admitting the carbon emissions caused by his trip). But information about what’s happening to our world doesn’t always provoke enough of an emotional connection to actually make a change, argued movie producer Jake Eberts, who helped Perrin present his film because of the latter’s limited English. Further, Arthus-Bertrand’s idea of giving his movie away is noble, and should be a model for other such calls to action — though at the same time, it’s understandable that Perrin is under some pressure to make his $75 million back.

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