Before the Flood


Film poster of  Before the Flood

Film poster of Before the Flood

This documentary is not for the faint hearted. This is one of those films that can make you feel disheartened toward the conditions of the world, the environment, and the people in power. But maybe it’s the push we need to make more changes in the way we live.

The film begins with host Leonardo DiCaprio describing a poster of a painting from his childhood bedroom by Hieronymus Bosch, named The Garden of Earthly Delights. It shows three scenarios - the garden of Eden in one section, humans living in peace and harmony in another, and the end of the world with destruction of mankind in the last. Following this, natural disasters like flooding, hurricanes, bushfire and drought fill the screen. This is how Dicaprio and director Fisher Stevens set the scene for their documentary, Before the Flood.

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Film stills from  Before the Flood

Film stills from Before the Flood

Photo by Juha Lakaniemi

Photo by Juha Lakaniemi

DiCaprio has been appointed the UN’s messenger of peace on the topic of climate change, which sets him up to travel around the world to learn about and observe the visible climate changes that have begun. We get a sense of bitterness from DiCaprio, but the reality is that the conditions affecting our environment are in dire need of our attention and immediate action, which is the set up for the tone of the film. 


At one point DiCaprio travels to Miami Beach City where he visits the major. Miami Beach City has invested 400 million dollars into a project to save the city from climate change,mostly floodings from the rising sea levels. They raise the level of the streets and build electrical pumps to pump the water back into the ocean. When the mayor of Miami Beach shows Leonardo DiCaprio around the construction sites, DiCaprio asks if the changes will buy the city significant amount of time before the threat of another flood. The mayor answers “Absolutely! I would think about 40-50 years.” “That’s it?!,” DiCaprio exclaims in disbelief, shocked that so much money and effort is consumed into such a short term investment. It’s obvious that prevention of further climate change is a better idea than continuing to battle the elements in this way. 

Fossil fuels and our diet are seen as the biggest problems in relation to climate changes. Our dietary choices affects the climate and environment, namely from animal production. Animals take up more water, energy and release more CO2 and waste than the production of just plant foods for human consumption. The food we must produce to feed these animals take up a lot of space on the fields, and use up resources that could have gone directly to just producing vegetables. To eat a more climate friendly diet would mean to cut down consuming meat and animal products , and replace it with a more plant-based diet. 

Film still from  Before the Flood

Film still from Before the Flood

Some of the most horrifying and heartbreaking visuals in the film are of the arctic polar ice caps melting. The icebergs cracking and crashing into the water are filmed in real time, as Dicaprio watches. Glaciers are shown in fast forward from white big surfaces to small grey chunks of dirty ice.  

Although the documentary portrays the earth in a dystopian view,  there is a spark of hope. Piers Sellers, a former astronaut, believes we can gradually reverse or halt this environmental decline, “If we stopped burning fossil fuel right now, the planet would still keep warming for a little while before cooling off again,” he says. He believes that the climate changes can be undone, but we should be taking action as soon as possible.

Though very dark, the message is clear, the choices we make today determine the fate of our future. The film ends, leaving us with the words, “It is up to all of us”.

The documentary is from 2016 and can be watched on Netflix.
You can look deeper into this film by going their webpage







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