- Colin Fraser
CARBON: THE UNAUTHORISED BIOGRAPHY
TWO AND A HALF STARS Carbon. It's everywhere, but is it a force of good or will it be our undoing? DOCUMENTARY AUSTRALIA #CARBON
Narrated by Sarah Snook
The directing team of Daniella Ortega and Niobe Thompson take a very unusual direction in crafting this documentary about one of the planet’s most abundant, energetic, innocuous and yet (in the wrong hands) dangerous elements. Their approach recalls Scott Morrison’s infamous ‘don’t be afraid of it’ speech to parliament as they seek to reshape carbon’s bad press while, unlike the one-sided PM, noting that when crossed carbon becomes most fearsome indeed. To underscore that point they give ‘her’ a sex and a voice (Sarah Snook) to chart the story of the element that could be our undoing.
The documentary is equal parts science and history lessons with a generous side-serve of climate politics. You’ll learn something about carbon’s long past which gives the notion that ‘we are all made of stars’ new resonance. You’ll be intrigued by its capacity to reshape our world in the most intriguing ways. You’ll also be astounded by the myriad ways we then force carbon to undo the world we live in. It’s all packaged up with eye-catching visuals and Snook’s ear-catching voice-over.
There’s much to like about CARBON: THE UNAUTHORISED BIOGRAPHY as a science and history lesson, despite the way it treads a little too softly around the carbon crisis. To be clear, unlike Morrison, the film is not seeking to redress carbon’s role in climate change - Ortega and Thompson are direct about how we’ve harnessed it to our peril. Yet in seeking to refocus concern away from the element toward human action they raise the question of primary purpose - to educate about the element or the crisis? It’s not entirely clear and anthropomorphising carbon doesn’t help.
CARBON: THE UNAUTHORISED BIOGRAPHY is a compelling story. Nudging the needle in either direction - toward science or crisis - it would become compulsory viewing. Getting it right is ultimately a question of balance which is ironic given the documentary’s central tenant is about a lack of exactly that in our world.