This isn’t a film about whether climate change is real; it’s a film about an island nation of 100,000 people that is on the verge of oblivion due to rising sea levels. Punctuated with beautiful drone shots and hypnotic native music, Anote’s Ark follows the life of the president of Kiribati, Anote Tong, as he pleads with the world’s nations to adopt environmental standards in order to halt, or even reverse, the damage we’ve done to our planet.
In addition, he’s attempting to work with countries like Fiji and Australia on creating an escape plan for when his people are forced to leave their homes after the ocean swallows them up. Two villages on the islands have already been devoured, and as it stands now – by the end of the century – the entire country will be no more.
Anote’s Ark provides a fascinating look at this small country, the dedication of its people and its president, and the positive steps for change that become laid out due to the Paris Agreement. Of course, this film was created before Trump was elected as the U.S. president and attempted to leave the agreement and just before, as the film states preceding the end credits, the Kiribati president elected after Tong’s term began working to undo all the progress he made.
Rytz spends a significant amount of time around the island, showing us its amazing beaches and tranquil landscapes, while introducing us to its people – connecting us on a personal level to Kiribati, which lies on the equator and straddles both hemispheres.
This connection to the people is also where the film becomes disjointed. It jumps back and forth between Anote, the central character, and a young woman, Sermery, who left the country after her house was flooded during one of the nation’s many bad storms. A mother of six, she is chosen to participate in a work visa program that New Zealand created for them as a means to create a new life.
Sermery’s story is endearing, but it feels completely separate from the rest of the film. If it’s a film about the nation as a whole, one would think there would be more subjects telling their stories; and if it’s about climate change and its effects on this country, then it seems like an unnecessary distraction to continuously be side-tracked by this other story.
While still entertaining and visually arresting due to its exotic locale, Anote’s Ark is an uneven film that feels more like two short films cobbled together than one cohesive documentary experience.