Carbon: The Unauthorised Biography [7/10]

In taking a distinctively imaginative approach to the climate crisis, “Carbon: The Unauthorised Biography,” an Australian-Canadian collaborative documentary, flirts with danger. Over its hour and a half, the film portrays the element carbon as a living entity, firstly as the backbone of the universe, and then, of course, as unwilling villain in its role in carbon dioxide, the principal factor in slowly warming our planet. A wonderful cast of highly expert talking heads from a range of disciplines (not just climate science), including Neil deGrasse Tyson, Joelle Gergis, Katharine Hayhoe, and Will Steffen (I’ve just listed the ones I know, some of the others are equally as scintillating), exuberantly narrate carbon’s “story” from the start of the universe until now. Carbon is personified as a “she,” and her story is interspersed with fervent imaginings of her voiceover, narrated by Sarah Snook. Daniella Ortega, the writer, also does a stellar job in the director’s chair, keeping the pace up and the plotline cogent. I can recommend Carbon: The Unauthorised Biography as a visually satisfying educational documentary. The risk, as I see it, is that viewers might find the very personification of carbon an irritant. Similarly, pairing the perils of climbing carbon dioxide as harbinger of doom with carbon’s bountiful ubiquity could detract from the former vital message. Well worth watching.

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