By focusing its lens on coral reefs, “The Last Reef 3D: Cities Beneath the Sea,” turns the ocean’s tiniest creatures into movie stars.
The new film explores how this habitat, which shelters nearly a quarter of Earth’s marine life and provides food for billions of people, is under siege from overfishing, urban and industrial pollution and rising ocean temperatures.
The movie captures the drama of daily life from Palau, French Polynesia to the Bahamas and Mexico. Filmmakers Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas didn’t just want to make a beautiful film; they also wanted to make a responsible one.
“If you want to protect something you have to first appreciate it,” said Cresswell.
McNicholas added, “What we wanted to do was show the range and breadth and diversity of life and how all these things interconnect and how losing one element will have a domino effect for that whole ecosystem.”
Shooting the film in 3-D using special macro, or close-up lenses, adds a powerful visual impact on the giant screens found in many science museums.
“The Last Reef” also shows that reefs are in serious decline.
Reefs are suffering “from impacts related to climate change, the warming sea surface temperatures, ocean acidification and land-based sources of pollution and overfishing,” according to John Christensen, director of the Coral Reef Conservation program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
These threats have destroyed 20 percent of the world’s reefs and another 20 percent are likely to decline significantly by 2030, he says. “So not only do we see more dead coral in places that are in serious decline, we see a reduction in biodiversity at large.”
McNicholas and Cresswell hope their film both educates audiences and motivates them to get involved in efforts to save the reefs. A recurring theme is the connection between the cities we live in and those under the sea on which we depend.