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Friday, August 15, 2014

Sylvia Earle’s “Mission Blue” Now Streaming on Netflix

Posted By on Fri, Aug 15, 2014 at 4:25 PM

click to enlarge missionblue.jpg
“Mission Blue” may or may not be the name of some artisanal cheese on sale for ten bucks an ounce at Salumeria, but it definitely is the name of the marine-conservation nonprofit founded by oceanography rock star Sylvia Earle. And it’s the title of a new documentary about her life and work, available today on Netflix.

Earle, one of the first female aquanauts, later chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and currently National Geographic’s Explorer-in-Residence, has studied the seas since she was 12. Now she’s 78, and has come to the very reasonable conclusion that they need preservation. Her equally reasonable goal is to establish protected areas where ocean waters may go untouched for long enough to rebound from the abundantly evident ravages of overfishing, offshore oil drilling, and pollution. Lately she's been on the road for about 300 days a year, giving talks. “I can’t think of anything I’d rather be doing,” she says. “Other than diving.”

Fellow deep-diving enthusiast James Cameron also is on hand here to help explain, among other things, how having the soul of an explorer tends to destabilize one’s family life. Indeed, when not infatuatedly calling attention to Earle’s youthful beauty, Mission Blue can’t seem to help calling attention to the fact that her marriages haven’t gone swimmingly. Professional ambition, like environmental activism, has many burdens.

One begins to imagine Cameron making this movie as an adventure drama, with Sigourney Weaver in the part. But Fisher Stevens (The Cove) and Robert Nixon (Gorillas in the Mist) stayed more or less on point in the form of doting documentary, with the great advantage of direct access to Earle herself. True, she tends to romanticize her youthful and somewhat proprietary experience of the water, but this often spectacular movie makes it vividly easy to see why. And of course it’s not just her own experience that’s at stake. As she likes to point out, “No ocean, no us.”

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Jonathan Kiefer

SF Weekly movie critic Jonathan Kiefer is on Twitter: @kieferama and of course @sfweeklyfilm.


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