Message, not a movie

Message, not a movie

Docu review

Message, not a movie

D­ocumentaries come and go; but some stay — making an impact, spreading a message, changing minds, and in some cases, probably, touching lives. There are several of them who have done so in the past. Some notable ones in the recent times are The Inside Job, which chronicled the events that led to the economic recession, and Beyond the Speed of Sound, which documented the life and career of Formula One racer Ayrton Senna. And now, there is a new one on the shelf. This one comes from Oscar-winning director Louis Psihoyos, and it’s called Racing Extinction.

A documentary intended to portray the perils that endangered species are facing, heading into mass extinction, it does that and much more. Filmed over several continents and months, Racing Extinction stands out majorly because of its serious and extensive research and homework. Covert operations, appetites for huge risks and a dedicated team comprising various subject matter experts from different fields add to its credibility, even while we are a little sceptical about the movie-like situations that arise quite often.

The movie, Psihoyos’s second, after The Cove, starts off by showing us carcasses of animals and birds that are being endangered. Over the next 90 minutes, it touches some crucial issues concerning the environment, and links to it everything else that we generally would not think to associate — policy, politics, social consequences, awareness, tourism and even local cultures. With images of sharks that are let back into the sea after cutting off their fins and the grisly huntings of Manta rays, Racing Extinction is brutally honest. They’re not afraid to call things as they see them, even if it means talking about uncomfortable truths.

From exposing a restaurant that serves whale meat illegally in Los Angeles to dissuading fishermen in Indonesia from killing Manta rays to testing carbon dioxide levels to tracking the meat industry operations, this team does it all. The documentary makers have even managed to rope in many experts, including Jane Goodall, for offering testimonies, propounding theories and painting an ominous picture about the future of several creatures. Conservation biologists, palaetiology curators, marine scientists, conservationists and researchers — all have something significant from their subject matter expertises to contribute to the vast amount of information that is tried to be disseminated.

Also making appearances are Elon Musk and race car driver Lelani Munter. And much like the varied people, they touch upon various topics that deal with saving the Earth. But, in the process, the movie somehow seems to lose focus of the crux of the matter.

But it would also be incorrect for us to think that Racing Extinction is a documentary about endangered animals. It is more like a message intended to stir people to act immediately. It talks about reducing meat consumption, increased use of renewable energy, and goes as far as to ask you to vote for green candidates. Though it meanders around numerous issues, it finds a strong footing somewhere in its willingness to send across a warning signal.

Aimed for the masses surely, but Racing Extinction will find a place mostly with young nerds, establishing a fleeting connection, to say the least. However small the impact, the makers are sure to make one, and that is a positive sign; because, as it is said towards the end of the movie: It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.