Category Archives: film

Oscar Prediction for “Chasing Coral”

Now that we know this year’s winner of the best documentary film, O.J.: Made in America, here’s a prediction about next year’s winner. It will be Chasing Coral.

The new film follows scientists and photographers who are attempting to show the world what’s happening underwater. It’s exceptionally timely and provocative, because coral reefs are experiencing the worst bleaching and death-spiral ever witnessed.

Already a crowd pleaser at its premiere at Robert Redford’s Sundance Film Festival, this film follows in the footstep’s of the Oscar-nominated film, Chasing Ice, about climate change’s stunning visuals in frigid Greenland. The director Jeff Orlowski has now turned his attention to the biggest tropical, biological victim of a warming planet: shallow reefs built by coral animals.

The film has been purchased by Netflix, and I can’t wait to see it. It features a special camera, used by the XL Catlin Seaview Survey, to show reefs in 360 degree technicolor. These images allow us to see reefs across the planet like never before.

Critic site calls it a “landmark film,” and I’m betting that it’s pure Oscar gold.



How to interpret The Red Turtle

What does The Red Turtle mean? How are we supposed to interpret a movie with no dialogue and no explanations? Not easily.

The Oscar-nominated animation has not yet prompted an onslaught of online opinion. It offers a green and blue canvas for people to paint their own portraits and impose their own perceptions onto this rectangular dream. Meditative and mysterious, the film also feels allegorical. It’s an extended bedtime story for adults.

Others articles discuss the director (Michaël Dudok de Wit of the Netherlands) and the art of the animation (Studio Ghibli of Japan), but I want to explore the symbolism of the film. Let’s start with the title, which is what drew me to see it.

Why Red?

A sea turtle with a red shell is exceptional, improbable, and startling. The color red could be interpreted to indicate danger, blood, passion, and other strong emotions. But turtles are toothless. Sea turtles do not threaten humans, although this red turtle does disrupt the protagonist’s plans to escape the deserted island. A silent siren, she controls his destiny. She is a stop sign.

The Turtle of the Red Shell

Sea turtles are exceptionally ancient, amphibious survivors in the tree of life, yet they are highly threatened by human activity. They represent our connection to the past and our alienation in the present. They know things that we can’t, and they are pacific. In contrast, humans are young and violent. We’re jealous and discontent.

The nameless main character is a non-turtle, an every-man, representing a lost soul and a frustrated loner. His conscious desire is to escape, like the delicate, hatchling sea turtles that scatter into the sea, but he is a failure. He has no home, no shell. The turtle, in its shell, is always home.

Conception and Rebirth

The film’s narrative unfolds as a creation myth, with Eve eventually arising from the red turtle’s shell and giving birth to a son, creating a trinity. This expansion represents the man’s unconscious desire to create. He believed that his true life existed outside of the island, in another place and time, but his spirit conjured up new life from within. The red turtle is his tormentor, and his deliverer.

The son is a hybrid who is free to join the turtles. He achieves what the father could not, and he chooses the feminine path of his mother. Both father and son experience the same rebirthing process after falling into the cave, yet the son struggles much less. He is becoming more harmonious, more integrated with nature than the father. He is returning to the amphibious womb of the ocean.

But a Dream

The Red Turtle could be enjoyed as an extended dream sequence, like the Technicolor portion of the Wizard of Oz. There are dreams within the dream, as when the man flies over a pier or when he hears a string quartet. But he awakens to the confines of his tropical island.

turtle FKNMS

The island nurtures him with food, water, and eventually a mate. At times it turns violent and dangerous, and eventually he falls asleep on the sand, forever. He achieves peace and belonging. Just as the turtle will return to the sea, he will return to the sand.

Feeling Unsettled

This interpretation is one of many possibilities, such a this one from Paste, calling it “more impressionistic than thematic.” You could look at the silence as ambivalence; the island could be the protagonist; the turtle could be a hallucination.

My mother is a turtle.

I may find another meaning in the future, but today I see it this way: the turtle is a higher being, a more advanced consciousness, and we are struggling to connect with it, just as many people are struggling in today’s world to reconnect with Nature. We are lost. Despite our wired world, we are disconnected.

So many people today envision the world in screens. They fear peering away from their phones and their computers, lest they miss something important. They need a reminder that stories have magic and power to heal, whereas a screen is only a tool. Screens can convey stories, but only the interpreter can infuse them with meaning.

The Red Turtle, while only a film, is also a chance to meditate on a moving yet perplexing story. It’s an invitation to dream of something beyond the rectangle.

Apple calls 5-year-old “vintage”

Little Ms. iMac went to an official Apple beehive Saturday and asked to buy some honey to cure her sore throat. Instead of some medicine, however, she was told that she was too over-the-hill to deserve a cure, and she was advised to commit suicide. At age 5.

By February 2012, Apple will no longer produce replacement parts for iMacs from 2006, according to the Apple employee who helped me. My machine is perfectly fine except for a stripe running down the monitor’s center, and two quotes to repair it averaged $600. Although it could be fixed at this high price, the store employee warned that any future kinks would put the machine into a permanent coma with no technology available to treat it. In other words, don’t waste your time to fix it—buy a new one. And a new iPhone. And a new iPod, iTouch, and iGotU. (on a related note, Check out the clever video iMatter).

When I asked if the store would recycle the young machine, he said “no.” To recycle through Apple, he said that I would need to take several steps and pay for it myself.

Apple has been getting a lot of bad press this month because of exposés of the deplorable working conditions at its affiliated factories in China. One compelling image is the netting installed at Chinese factory dorms to catch the suicidal jumpers.

But another dirty secret of shiny Apple is called “planned obsolescence.” Its products are designed to fail and become “vintage” after a few years, thereby creating tons of e-waste along with the company’s record-breaking profits. On Sunday I watched a great film about this phenomena called The Light Bulb Conspiracy.  Try to see it. It shows how the marketplace encourages a “disposable” society.

But what to do about my sick iMac? By the way, I also have another, older turquoise-shell iMac in the closet. It seems that even schools (and relatives) don’t want them. But I refuse to dump it into the trash, knowing that it will be shipped overseas to pollute the third world. Maybe I’ll just keep them in the closet indefinitely.

Locally, a new one-stop shop for recycling has opened up at Ecomb in South Beach. I joined their board in December, so I take no credit for this accomplishment. For full disclosure, I have owned many Apple products and have preferred their computers to PCs for a long time. But with an awareness of mounting e-waste, I can’t simply replace, replace, replace. I will reduce the purchase of disposable and non-biodegradable products. I will reuse my aging electronics or simply let them go. And I will buy products that can be recycled.

Apple should start by setting up recycling centers in every Apple store. Considering that their last quarter posted $46.3 billion in sales, I think they can afford it.

Cousteau family keeps the faith

“Instead of becoming hopeless, create hope.”


The film shares its title with an earlier book.

Those thoughtful words were spoken Friday night by Fabien Cousteau. He and his sister, Celine, were in Miami as their father, Jean-Michel, hosted the world premier of his new documentary, My Father, the Captain: My Life with Jacques-Yves Cousteau. Check out my review of the film.

Seeing this family was a highlight of the conference I attended for environmental journalists, as Jacques Cousteau was and remains my number one hero. The college freshmen I teach at FIU have no clue who he was, so I have to explain why he was so inspirational and how he became the world’s most recognized figure of the 20th century.

Granddaughter Celine, who is six months pregnant with the fourth generation, talked to me about how one person can change the world. People across the world tell her how her grandfather inspired them. “One person can have a domino effect. You don’t know how far that ripple effect goes.”

Fabien pointed out his grandfather’s support network. “Jacques Cousteau opened the door to concern about the environment. But he couldn’t do it alone. It was a communal effort, and he was the face of it.”

When I asked him what he says when speaking to schoolchildren, his words become sharp. “I say we need a revolution. We need all of you, an army of young people to change what we’ve done.”

Thanks, Fabien, and the four other Cousteau’s who shared their spirit of determination with journalists who could use a boost or two.

That spirit will be needed to save Planet Ocean, and especially our coral reefs—an early victim of


How could he refuse?

global warming. They could be gone within 100 years, as discussed in my article here.

With the bad news about the environment getting consistently worse, it would be easy to give up. But Jean-Michel Cousteau says he finds the reason to continue when looking into the eyes of a child, because that child will inherit the consequences of our actions. He can’t bear to disappoint today’s children and future generations, because they are looking to us, with innocent eyes, and they deserve a fighting chance.