Saving Atlantis
Saving Atlantis
Saving Atlantis
Saving Atlantis
Saving Atlantis
Saving Atlantis
Saving Atlantis

Saving Atlantis

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  • Directed by: David Baker & Justin Smith
  • Released: 2018 (educational)
  • Year of Production: 2017
Running Time: 75 min. 
Language: English
Accessibility: Includes English Closed Captioning
Subtitle Options: English, Spanish
Subjects: Environmental Studies
Developed by OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY and produced by a team of award-winning filmmakers & researchers.
Saving Atlantis is the first documentary to take a deep dive into one of the most consequential issues of our time: the dramatic decline of global coral reef ecosystems and the impact on human populations that depend on them. Coral reefs are one of the world's most diverse habitats. They are often called "the rainforests of the ocean", but the rapid acceleration of coral bleaching events around the world is jeopardizing their future.
Produced by a team of award-winning filmmakers and researchers, Saving Atlantis follows those who are fighting to uncover the causes of coral decline and find solutions before it’s too late. Combining the ecological impacts and human toll of hundreds of millions of people worldwide who depend on coral reefs for their very survival, Saving Atlantis charts an emotional exploration of some of our planet's greatest natural wonders at a tipping point in their ecological history.

The film follows several stories: renowned scientists looking to unlock the microbial secrets to coral survival; a mysterious coral reef in Colombia that has withstood five hundred years of human pressures but now faces its greatest threat; and a group of young aboriginal students in Australia working to restore the ancient connections of their people to a marine habitat just as it could disappear forever.

Exploring the science behind corals, speaking with the top researchers who study these animals and taking global journey that celebrates the majesty and mystery of coral habitats, Saving Atlantis sheds light on the daunting challenges communities face and follows those who are making a desperate attempt to preserve them for future generations.

Filmed in Australia, the South Pacific, Hawai’i, the Caribbean and the Red Sea, Saving Atlantis is a worldwide tour of one of the most important issues of our time.


Coral reefs cover only 0.1 percent of the Earth’s surface, but they’re home to 25 percent of all marine species, and they’re being lost at an alarming rate. Pollution, overfishing and climate change are some of the human-influenced culprits in the dramatic decline of these magnificent natural structures. Coral reefs serve as a linchpin in the global food web. Their decline leads our entire planet in a perilous direction. But research from scientists around the world hints at bright spots where real strides can be made in preservation and protection of these habitats. 


"Filmmakers David Baker and Justin Smith’s documentary examines the disturbing decline of the world’s coral reefs (and their associated aquatic ecosystems, which hold 25 percent of marine life) due to global warming. The crisis is exemplified in a most alarming manner by the epidemic “bleaching” of Australia’s iconic Great Barrier Reef, where even subtle rises in temperatures have wreaked havoc on sensitive algae that coexists in symbiosis with coral-building animals. Pollution and overfishing also endanger reef communities, although some of the economic victims of reef die-offs cited here are the tribal fishermen of the tropics, who have lived for generations off the bounties of reefs that are now deserted by fish. Among the solutions suggested are training indigenous shoreline people in ecology and healthy sustainable practices, and propagating corals from special reefs (there are a few) that have somehow naturally evolved resistance to all the toxins that humanity produces. Still, despite these few glimmers of optimism, a melancholy sense hangs over this film that a jewel of the oceans is being lost, perhaps irrevocably. Offering a powerful environmental wake-up call, this is recommended." - C. Cassady for Video Librarian

  • American Documentary Film Festival
  • Newport Beach Film Festival
  • BendFilm Festival
  • United Nations Association Film Festival
  • Emerald Ocean Film Festival
  • Hatfield Marine Science Center Film Festival

Dr. Rebecca Vega Thurber, Ph.D.

Vega Thurber is a leading coral microbiologist whose research had led her to sudy corals around the world. After securing a grant from the National Science Foundation to investigate the microbiome of corals, she decided to use video as the medium for communicating her research to the public, which became the genesis of this documentary project.


Justin Smith

Smith directed two award-winning short documentaries for Oregon State University, Relentless and Kel Wer. His filmmaking has led him to five continents. He holds a degree in film from the University of Utah and an MBA from Oregon State University.

David Baker

Baker directed the feature documentary American Wine Story and directed the upcoming film Three Days of Glory. He has reitten award-winning feature scripts and is the author of the novel Vintage, published by Simon and Schuster in 2015.


Peter Coyote

Coyote is an Emmy-winning narrator, actor and author, and the iconic voice of such films as The National Parks: America's Best Idea, The West, and The Vietnam War.