This year’s Planet in Focus opener is Deep Rising, and its 94 minutes covers more than a century. Capitalists have pitched the idea of this documentary’s main topic, deep sea mining, since the 1870s. That’s a full decade before the Scramble for Colonialism. The second stage of that venture started during the ‘postcolonial era’. During the mid 20th century, the UN voted to start a committee to give out licenses to countries and corporations to mine the ocean. Cue the archive footage of UN delegates throwing shade at Americans trying to monopolize deep sea mining. This kind of mining, as international wunderkinds propose, isn’t as intrusive as surface mining, a topic it also covers by showing that kind of mining in Indonesia and the social upheaval it’s causing there. This documentary argues that both are terrible and destroying the biospheres below sea level.
If this review of Deep Rising makes it sound like it’s covering a lot of ground, then yes it does. In being comprehensive, it does seem like it’s straining itself but it sticks the landing. Documentary fans have seen the genre fall apart at the seams for doing less. Despite its flaws, Deep Rising manages to pull of visual dynamism, as it mixes clear digital footage of boardroom meeting and workers with smartphone footage of the protests in Indonesia and the Global South. There’s a cynicism yet truthfulness to what most of the film shows. We all know that the actions of men who meet in gilded hotel rooms have consequences for our global climate. Explaining all of this and reconnecting this documentary’s seemingly disparate topics is Jason Momoa, who, despite his good intensions, almost singlehandedly ruins this film.
Momoa, outside of being Aquaman, has earned his activist stripes, but just because doesn’t mean. I’ll also be kinder than half of the people who saw this at Sundance. Those critics called Deep Rising and his narration boring. I sense that either he, director Matthieu Rytz, or both, are going for subdued anger. This works while explaining the scenes between capitalists doing what they do – creating a need and scarring the earth and the seas for it. The thing about subdued anger is that it kills an emotional arc that may complement the documentary’s storytelling better. The choice to use that emotion while showing the beauty of the deep oceans’ creatures is, well, a choice. Nonetheless, it still does a competent job at exposing the many angles of an industry that isn’t the solution to the world’s problems. Thankfully, Canada knows this to be true.
After its festival run, Deep Rising comes out on October 27.