SAN SEBASTIAN As the “Terminator” theme music played, assembled press scurried to the front of a packed hall to get photos of one of Europe’s greatest cinematic exports. Clean shaven with a smile a mile wide, Arnold Schwarzenegger proved one San Sebastián’s 2017 highlight.
Accompanied by the cast and crew of his most recent project, “Wonders of the Sea 3D,” Schwarzenegger took questions about their underwater documentary Monday afternoon.
If it ever seemed unlikely that a bodybuilder with a thick Austrian accent could become the most famous action star in the world, or that he would then become governor of the state of California, it must seem only slightly less so that he would be asked to be narrator on one of the biggest documentaries to screen at this year’s San Sebastián Film Festival.
It would be folly to insinuate that “Wonders of the Sea 3D,” the latest Cousteau documentary to come from the royal family of the aquatic kingdom, Schwarzenegger’s first on-screen presence in defense of the environment. In 1990’s “Total Recall,” the actor ended Cohaagen’s monopoly of breathable air on the Mars colonies and, following a heroic struggle, activated the air filters which gave Mars an atmosphere capable of sustaining human life.
“Wonders of the Sea 3D,” is a more modest effort on the part Schwarzenegger to keep another planet’s atmosphere livable for not only humankind, but the millions of other species which inhabit it.
The film is not, however, a movie that focuses on the political world which Schwarzenegger had previously inhabited. When questions of politics were asked of the actor, he demanded: “Don’t ever ever buy into the idea that the environment ought to be a political issue,” going on to point out that, “there is no democrat or republican air, there is no democrat or republican water. We breath the same air and we drink the same water.”
The film, which premiered in May at Cannes, is a deep-sea, 3-D exploration of the world’s rapidly depleting coral reefs, kelp forests, sandy bottoms and the creatures which call them home. The film hints throughout that there is something insidious going on, but allows viewers to endear themselves to an ecosystem in a vibrant, high-definition medium. This brilliant world makes for a stark contrast once the cameras move on to the skeletal remains of a similar reef, destroyed by ocean acidification and rising water temperatures.
Hosting the journey, and aiding in narration, are Jean-Michel Cousteau and his children Fabien and Céline Cousteau, son and grandchildren of Jacques Cousteau. And, while the themes of the film couldn’t be more contemporary or urgent, the images captured by the family and their crew are a throwback to the documentaries that made their patron the most-recognized name and face in the history of marine biology, inspiring generations of marine-lovers around the world. The only thing missing in “Wonders of the Sea 3D” is a red stocking cap.
Cousteau addressed the importance of the film’s message getting out to a younger generation, “People will go home and, particularly young people, will educate others with the knowledge they acquired from the movie.”
And, to dismiss any notions that would diminish humanity’s impact on the environment he continued: “We are the only species on the planet that has the privilege to decide not to disappear.”
As for his part in the film, and why the actor decided to pick up narration after all these years, Schwarzenegger said that the film had a message that that he felt needed to get out. “This is what we are all about, we need to make sure the air is clean, the soil is clean, the ocean is clean, and that we protect the world for future generations.” The former governor said that he has always had a keen interest in the planet’s well being, attributed to his Austrian upbringing, but that once he got into office he was made aware of how severe the dangers facing our planet are.
“A lot of people today talk about climate change. I am talking about that pollution kills seven million people a year now. Today 19,ooo people will die from pollution.” He went on to tie those statistics to the film. “I think a movie like this is a way (to educate), without preaching to people. It’s a beautiful visual feast. People can watch, fall in love, and as Jean-Michel said many times, you protect what you love.”
By the end of the press conference, Schwarzenegger was the one running things and asking the questions, making sure that everyone present who was involved with the film had their chance to speak. And, in spite of the seemingly dour state of things today, the group finished with a positive message, the key take-away being that it’s not too late, that the ocean is forgiving, and that if we take appropriate steps, we can, in Schwarzenegger’s words, “hand over the world to the next generation, better than we inherited it.”