Carbon: The Unauthorised Biography

March 24, 2022

Australian, Documentary, Review, Theatrical, This Week Leave a Comment

Imaginative and well-meaning ...

Carbon: The Unauthorised Biography

Lisa Nystrom
Year: 2022
Rating: G
Director: Daniella Ortega

Sarah Snook (narrator), Neil deGrasse Tyson

Distributor: Maslow/Umbrella
Released: March 31, 2022
Running Time: 89 minutes
Worth: $10.00

FilmInk rates movies out of $20 — the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth

Imaginative and well-meaning …

Eccentric yet enlightening, this “unauthorised biography of carbon” leads us on a journey from the Big Bang through to modern day, documenting all the ways that the element in question can build life and also, ultimately, destroy it.

Narrated by Succession star Sarah Snook, carbon takes on the role of protagonist, presented with not only a voice but also a gender. A host of celebrated scientists and academics come together to speak on the history of the most “promiscuous atom”, making carbon sound more like the Regina George of “her” high school than a chemical element essential for all life on Earth.

It’s certainly a novel approach to capturing the audience’s attention, and director Daniella Ortega isn’t afraid to have fun with what under other circumstances, could be yet another dry and disheartening scare piece about climate change.

While it feels a little like the video your high school science teacher plays during a lazy double lesson, the sheer enthusiasm that the featured experts have for their chosen field is irresistible. Key names such as Neil deGrasse Tyson make an appearance, however Ortega makes it a point to highlight the voices of women in STEM, ensuring an equal amount of screen time goes to astrophysicist Tamara Davis, ecologist Dr Katey Walter Anthony, and climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe to name just a few.

Astrophysicists, geologists, biologists, climate scientists, ecologists…they all have a love affair with carbon, while the combination of talking head interviews alongside genuinely spectacular visuals, time lapse footage, animation and soft-spoken narration all work to ensure the audience forges their own emotional bond with the element.

Clearly targeted towards a young adult audience, the objective is to open the minds of the “generation that’s witnessing the destruction of the earth”. Imaginative and well-meaning, if at times a touch ridiculous in the execution, the film does manage to steer clear of doom and gloom and instead provides an unbiased history, documenting both the good and the bad that carbon has played a part in, while simultaneously ensuring that we’re left with a feeling of connectedness and hope for the future.


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