‘Carbon: The Unauthorised Biography’ Review – A masterclass in climate

Daniella Ortega & Niobe Thompson’s latest documentary Carbon: The Unauthorised Biography took me on a trip back to high school – not in any physical sense but it made me remember how much fun learning about science could be. Narrated by Succession star Sarah Snook, it’s a 90-minute ride of beautiful animations, fascinating interviews and an adventure through the history of the universe.

Australia has recently had a robust output of climate documentaries with Damon Gameau’s 2040 and Eva Orner’s award-winning Burning. Yet our country is still struggling to have discussions about climate change. According to NASA, 97% or more of actively publishing climate scientists believe in man-made climate change, yet it’s still not a widely accepted truth. That’s why documentaries like Carbon: The Unauthorised Biography are important, they clearly spell out the history of our planet and why our continued existence isn’t a given.

Carbon tells the history of our universe. It reaches back to the big bang and explains how carbon came into being before racing forward and looking at how it became one of the fundamental ingredients for life on earth. Carbon is essential, yet we are faced with a situation where it is oversupplied in a toxic form. If we’re not careful we are heading towards ‘Hot House Earth’, which is not the name of a great EDM mix tape.

While it isn’t the visually flashiest documentary, Ortega and Thompson have put in a lot of effort to get amongst the facts of the matter. To give just a small snapshot of the experts involved in this documentary; Neil deGrasse Tyson (Astrophysicist) helps to explain Carbon’s role in shaping the universe, Katharine Hayhoe (Climate Scientist) outlines how scientists monitor our atmosphere and Phil De Luna gives a few ideas about how we might recapture carbon.

However, the film isn’t just scientific interviews, it has beautiful sequences of 2D animation exploring the history of our planet, a look at the historic importance of the Pilbara rangelands, a showcase of First Nation Peoples’ roles in climate diversity and a water birth. Ortega and Thompson have really attempted to pack as much in as they can in this accessible 90 minute package.

Carbon – The Unauthorised Biography is an information heavy piece and for maximum enjoyment, I think it needs to be viewed that way. It’s not trying to grab audiences with flashy CGI or being a pseudo-political thriller, it’s goal is to educate audiences. Maybe if you are studying climate sciences a lot of it may seem simplistic or old news, however, if you are looking for greater insight into our planet, this is the perfect start.

Carbon: The Unauthorised Biography is currently showing for a limited run at Dendy Cinemas Newtown and Ritz Randwick

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