Toronto Filmmaker Andrew Nisker’s “Coral Ghosts” presents the viewer with stunning cinematography but a tragic story about the death of the world’s coral reefs. Coral is a living organism and as it is extremely sensitive to increases in water temperatures it is “bleaching out” and dying. With its death the ecosystem that inhabits these reefs is also being wiped out.
One person dedicated to documenting the decline of the coral reefs is Dr. Tom Goreau a 70-year-old marine biologist. Perhaps saving the coral reefs is too late. Goreau seems to think the innovative restorative techniques devised to date are but a symbolic attempt to preserve what is vanishing unless global warming is quickly reversed. Dr. Goreau is President of the Global Coral Reef Alliance, a non-profit organization for coral reef protection.
And it is really a family effort as it was Dr. Goreau’s grandfather Fritz Goro who was a photographer for Life magazine that sparked a three-generation fascination with coral. It was at the Bikini Atoll in 1946 where he was witnessing an the effects of an open-air atomic bomb test by the Americans that he became fascinated by the coral growing in the waters off shore and invented an underwater camera to film it. Dr. Goreau’s father Thomas also dove frequently off the Bikini Atoll to document the decline of coral reefs and died of cancer at 45 after being exposed to so much radiation. Prior to his death he and wife Nora established a marine laboratory in Discovery Bay in Jamaica. Dr. Goreau just about grew up in waters of Jamaica until he left for MIT in Cambridge at 16 to study astrophysics.
Not wishing to meander into excessive details what is so compelling about this documentary are the artifacts and photographs taken by three generations of a family that are beautiful particularly of the healthy coral reefs giving the viewer an explosion of colour. What is not so beautiful are the algae covered dead and “bleached” coral reefs. What is frustrating is the slow response to reduce global warming and to possibly save the coral reefs.
Boxes of artifacts and thousands of photos of the coral are stored in a house in Boston but no money has been raised to save and protect the artifacts and photographs. In addition to Jamaica and the Bikini Atoll we are taken to the shores of Bali and The Great Barrier Reef in Australia. It is in Bali that Dr. Goreau developed a biorock process that involves sinking metal frames attaching starter corals to it. This process has resulted in the restoration of more than 150 coral reefs which protects the ecosystem, reducing the need for concrete barriers to prevent rising sea levels from causing damage. But this also supports tourism and fishing so it has economic benefits.
Filmmaker Nisker calls the documentary a “wake up call”. Indeed it is and if action is not taken quickly the coral reef show is over in a blaze of economic and eco tragedy.
The documentary should be showing on CBC GEM in the months ahead but it could be as early as the beginning of July. “Coral Ghost” is written, directed and produced by Andrew Nisker. You can see a trailer here Coral Ghosts 2020 – YouTube