Puff: Wonders of the Reef
A Barrier Reef puffer fish get's the hero's journey in Netflix’s first Australian Original documentary.
Over the years there have been plenty of documentaries around the Great Barrier Reef, notably from ABC and BBC.
Netflix’s first Australian Original documentary, Puff: Wonders of the Reef, teases that we will see the Reef like never before with super macro techniques specifically developed for the film. While we’ve certainly seen the Reef up close before, almost all of this doco keeps the frame tight around its miniscule subjects as it underpins an eco disaster theme.
Narrator Rose Byrne’s soft storytelling also gives a puffer fish, ‘Puff’, the hero’s journey.
As if to build on Finding Elmo‘s stardom, ‘Puff’ is affectionately followed across life-adventures in the depths of the Reef. He is “jellybean” size at the top of the film, later growing to thumb size.
Coral life is teeming with microcosms, colour, threats, and facing eco-disaster. Director / Producer Nick Robinson is on a mission to create fascination and empathy for marine life from a broad audience, and his tiny hero certainly makes for an accessible way into the story.
The real star of the doco is the cinematography by Pete West, capturing ‘unseen’ worlds that would make Attenborough smile. Music by Hylton Mowday helps the drama to rise and fall, while editors take a very modern approach to camera pans and swipes, which feels a tad imposed.
But the script is bigger on emotion than science, with Rose Byrne pitching at a family audience. (“it isn’t all sunbaking and snacks” / “he’s so hungry he could eat a horse”). While the dangers of Reef destruction are very real there was no attempt to outline how human behaviour could reverse an environmental crisis.
But the bigger, or should I say smaller, picture is undeniable. You could feasibly sit your family down for an entertaining education on Reef life, decorated in aquatic micro-wonderment.
Puff: Wonders of the Reef screens Thursday on Netflix.