The endlessly fascinating world beneath the waves is out of sight and, for most of us, out of mind. That could very spell the ultimate death for coral reefs that are vanishing at an unprecedented pace. The 2017 documentary “Chasing Coral” tells a dramatic and visual story of the deadly demise and issues a plea for people to take notice and action.

The Salem Progressive Film Series selection for March, “Chasing Coral” is more than an account of environmental tragedy. The film presents a thrilling ocean adventure as a team of divers, photographers and scientists race time to find out why coral reefs are dying and if they can be saved. Global warming and pollution are two culprits behind the dying coral reefs. Those deaths pose a far danger than loss of beauty as coral reefs are a vital part of the earth’s ecosystem, producing both food and oxygen.

Following the film, three guest speakers, with impressive marine research credentials, will speak and answer questions. They include Dr. Rebecca Vega Thurber, assistant professor of microbiology at Oregon State University (OSU); Dr. Nathan Kirk, who teaches and conducts research at OSU; and Dr. John Parkinson, a postdoctoral researcher in the OSU Department of Integrative Biology.

The documentaries director Jeff Orlowski, turned his attention to coral reefs following his 2012 documentary “Chasing Ice,” which chronicles the earth’s rapidly dwindling glaciers. “This is a visual story that the world needs to see,” Orlowski wrote on the “Chasing Coral” website. “We discovered for ourselves how quickly reef ecosystems are changing and knew this was a story that needed to be told.”

Throughout the documentary, filmmakers reveal the coral’s beautiful mysteries and their rapid transformation. Viewers watch as lush, vibrant watery wildernesses turn into vast stretches of white decay called “coral bleaching”. Once completely dead, the coral reefs resemble a grave yard.

Filmmakers spent 3 ½ years on the project and produced more than 700 hours of underwater footage as they grappled with storms and equipment mishaps. They teamed up with marine biologists and scientists, and used underwater time-lapse cameras to document the bleaching, creating visual evidence of the destruction.

Even the most hard-core deniers of climate change would be hard-placed to refute the evidence.

But, amid the heartbreak, “Chasing Coral” gives reason for hope, too. Preservation and regeneration but only if people act quickly to protect these amazing organisms below the water.


Chasing Coral

Salem Progressive Film Series
Guest speakers & audience discussion follow,
Tuesday, March 20, 7:00 pm

The Grand Theater
191 High St. NE, Salem
(503) 881-5305