DiCaprio’s ‘Before The Flood’ Drowns in Sea of Green Hypocrisy

Leonardo DiCaprio at the screening of Before the Flood, October 24, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.
Mike Windle/Getty Images

Leonardo DiCaprio claims his new film will illustrate the dangers of climate change.

Before the Flood is a new “documentary” that chronicles DiCaprio’s carbon-spewing journey across the planet, where he relies on natural disasters to prove that global warming is occurring and catastrophic.

The Oscar-winning actor speaks to scientists, politicians, and academics who provide dramatic soundbites about man-made global warming, but he fails to include a single quote from the thousands of scientists, politicians, and academics who vehemently disagree with these soundbites.

The United Nations has made frequent use of the Hollywood star in an effort to demonize fossil fuel use. The result? DiCaprio’s new film is something the actor claims will “scare the hell” out of people.

But the only thing more likely to scare audiences is the aw-shucks, privileged dilettante who says he’s just a “normal guy” like everybody else. In reality, DiCaprio is a party boy who loves his carbon-emitting playthings as much as he enjoys preaching the global warming gospel. It’s a skill he acquired from Al Gore, after a 1998 visit to the White House. Shortly thereafter, he formed the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation to address environmental concerns.

The documentary comes at a curious time, since DiCaprio and his foundation are caught up in a scandal that has launched calls for him to step down from his post as a “U.N. Messenger of Peace with a special focus on climate change.”

His foundation has allegedly received millions of embezzled dollars from Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund—called 1Malaysia Development Berhad (or 1MDB)—as payment for his starring in and producing The Wolf of Wall Street, a film about an unscrupulous stockbroker. DiCaprio now says he will return the money, but that may prove difficult given that his “donor-advised fund” is attached to the billion-dollar California Community Foundation.

DiCaprio’s lavish lifestyle hasn’t stopped the media from praising his work as a climate change demagogue. Editors and reporters often quote DiCaprio for saying that the fossil fuel industry should be “taxed out of existence”—an ironic suggestion since fossil fuels have enabled him to zip around the world to attend environmentally themed parties or lecture world leaders to address the climate crisis.

DiCaprio’s antipathy toward fossil fuels prompted ABC’s Good Morning America to call him an “incredibly committed” man who is “not just talking the talk” but is actually “advocating bold changes to tackle climate change.” The well-paid staff at ABC may not have considered that multimillionaire DiCaprio can afford any carbon tax imposed on him. Unfortunately, most Americans are barely making ends meet in the Obama economy.

The hypocrisy is indeed entertaining, however, and examples abound of DiCaprio’s carbon profligacy. Three months before standing in front of the U.N. and lamenting, “If we do not act together, we will surely perish,” DiCaprio took a private jet to Brazil. That flight was needed so the actor could borrow an Abu Dhabi billionaire’s 470-foot yacht to throw an extravagant party.

When DiCaprio picked up an environmental award in New York City last May, he was able to do so by taking a private jet from Cannes, then flying straight back to France on another private jet for a model-packed fundraiser the next evening. That’s an 8,000-mile carbon footprint.

DiCaprio has a track record of jet-set jaunts, though. In 2013, DiCaprio and fellow actor Jonah Hill flew from Sydney, Australia, to Las Vegas on a chartered 747 to celebrate New Year’s Eve at two separate parties. A private jet’s carbon emissions are 130 times greater than those of a commercial aircraft.

Some high-powered anti-fossil fuel groups, including the Sierra Club, have indeed criticized DiCaprio for not “walking the talk” and for setting a bad example of environmentalism.

Those complaints are likely a small matter since DiCaprio can seek solace in two adjoining properties in Hollywood, as well as a six-bedroom mansion in Palm Springs, Calif., two apartments in Battery Park City, N.Y., and an apartment in Greenwich Village. In 2014, he sold his beachfront estate in Malibu.

DiCaprio admits his “footprint is probably bigger than most” and in his documentary he includes footage of insults he’s received on that point. But the overall acting in Before the Flood is surprisingly wooden. When we see DiCaprio meeting with President Obama, the interview comes across as stilted and scripted. DiCaprio appears to fawn over the president, and the glowing admiration feels uncomfortable. That sort of emoting may work in films, but not in documentaries.

But back to the oh-so-high life. DiCaprio now owns a personal party yacht and has rented another, helpful distractions from his work sitting on the boards of various green groups such as the World Wildlife Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council, Pristine Seas, and other organizations. The yacht life functions as an amusing counterpoint to the worldview expressed in DiCaprio’s previous documentary, The 11th Hour, in which he demanded the world switch to 100 percent renewable energy.

Arguably the most notable thing DiCaprio ever said was, “I am not a scientist, but I don’t need to be. Because the world’s scientific community has spoken, and they have given us our prognosis: if we do not act together, we will surely perish.”

At the close of Before the Flood, DiCaprio addresses the U.N. and says, “The world is now watching. You are the last best hope of Earth, or you and all of the things we cherish, are history.” One wonders if the greatest hope would be DiCaprio and his celebrity ilk changing their self-indulgent behavior to avert an endlessly touted two degrees of disastrous warming.

It should be noted the mainstream media is already heaping praise on DiCaprio’s new documentary despite its many shortfalls, calling it visionary and chilling.

Yes, the film demonstrates stunning photography courtesy of Antonio Rossi (a documentary pro). But it gets drowned out by the film’s preachy writing, courtesy of Mark Monroe (The Cove, Chasing Ice). The entire modus operandi of the documentary is to scare you witless. Al Gore must be pleased with his pupil. Not short on money, the film employs spiffy animation, with one showing a pre-polluted Earth vs. a post-polluted Earth, as seen from space. 

The structure of Before the Flood is both repetitive and rehearsed. First, dole out misleading data with disturbing imagery. Then have an alarmist say something dramatic about the data. Then pan to DiCaprio shaking his head in mock disbelief. Afterward, tell the viewers the customary alarmist refrain: “Time is running out” therefore “we must change our ways” and “this is what we must do.” Shake and repeat.

Before the Flood shows the viewer a new DiCaprio character seemingly possessed by Al Gore. This is simply identity-driven politics in overdrive: save the planet and you can save yourself. Heck, even Pope Francis gave DiCaprio his global warming blessings (a favor DiCaprio returned by giving the Pontiff a cameo).

Other science dilettantes who pop up in the film include former President Bill Clinton, John Kerry, Elon Musk, U.N. chief Ban Ki-Moon, and other progressive luminaries.

Before the Flood is 90 minutes of pre-approved green propaganda. It airs on the National Geographic channel on Oct. 30, 2016, just ahead of the elections.

Thomas Richard is a freelance writer living outside of Boston, Mass.


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