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“Deep Rising” Explores the “New Colonialism” of Ocean Mining


PARK CITY, UTAH – JANUARY 20: Jason Momoa, Sébastien Lépinard, Julie Lépinard, Director Matthieu Rytz, and Annie Roney attend the 2023 Sundance Film Festival \”Deep Rising\” Premiere at The Ray Theatre on January 20, 2023 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

By Peter Jones

A mechanical “mouth” recalls a miniature Star Wars snow walker as it meticulously collects minerals from the seabed, placing each one in a waiting receptacle — like a bird feeding its offspring, but with stoic, matter-of-fact precision.

“We just pick them off the floor,” says Gerard Barron, CEO for DeepGreen, a corporation — also known as The Metals Company — that was founded on the idea that deep-sea mining is the key to a future in green energy.

Deep Rising, which premiered January 20 at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival, is a documentary that is as chilling as the ocean it seeks to protect. The film is a passionate exposé on the geo-political and often secretive business maneuvers that seek to exploit the Earth’s final frontier. Deep Rising is also an emotional reminder of the connection between a healthy ocean and life itself — on sea, land, and otherwise.

“It’s been a real journey,” director Matthieu Rytz said during a Q&A after the screening. “When I started, in my mind I was [just] doing a film about deep-sea mining, and I really didn’t know where we were going… But then I started opening up all this incredible deep-ocean footage, and I just needed to bring this to the screen… But there’s actually another layer on it.”

That third, more disturbing layer involves what Rytz calls the “brainwashing” of the public by industry interests.

“So it was a very challenging film to make in a way, because we had to intertwine all those different storylines,” Rytz says.

The documentary was a labor of love for actor Jason Momoa, who narrates Deep Rising.

“This is my passion. Acting is a job,” he says. “… This is what great storytelling is.”

Just as Deep Rising features the United Nations debating the worth of ocean treasures as a matter of public policy, a camera pans the strange universe of a cavernous ocean, exploring beautiful, gentle alien life, swimming with ineffable grace, yet also sadly vulnerable.

The “energy-hungry super organism” that is name-dropped in Deep Rising isn’t an ominous underwater metal crane. It is the developed world and an insatiable craving for energy. Is an unhealthy ocean the price we pay to power a “green” economy?

Deep Rising is a thought-provoking deep dive into man’s relationship with the sea. 

“Look what we did to our own planet – mining just on the surface,” Momoa says. “… We’re in trouble.”

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