By Lynn Venhaus
Oceanographer Jacques-Yves Cousteau made underwater exploration his life’s passion. In his unmistakable red knit cap and sailing the intrepid vessel The Calypso, he got our attention through his inspiring voyages.

This competently assembled documentary from director Liz Garbus looks at his extraordinary life, achievements, and tragedies. Garbus, an Emmy winner for “What Happened, Miss Simone” and Oscar nominee for “The Farm: Angola, USA,” uses newly restored footage from his archives to create a respectable biography.

Narrator Vincent Cassel reads some passages from Cousteau’s diaries, and his aquatic life was cinematic-ready, so the visuals are what holds one’s attention.

If you are not familiar with his life’s work, finding out about Cousteau’s co-invention of the Aqua-lung, a breathing apparatus for below the ocean’s surface, his innovative filmmaking techniques for under the sea, and his early efforts on conservationism are fascinating.

If you paid attention to his adventures, so well-documented in 120 television documentaries and more than 50 books, then you won’t be surprised – but perhaps have a newfound appreciation for all that he did.

The film is best when it is in water, but not as interesting when it’s on land. The man himself preferred the water too. (His first wife said he ‘smelled like the sea.’) A curious, restless man, the ocean was his oxygen.

He was a young officer in the French Navy when he started his underwater pursuits. His first book, “The Silent World: A Story of Undersea Discovery and Adventure,” was published in 1953.

As a film pioneer, he adapted his book into a documentary, “The Silent World,” with filmmaker Louis Malle that won an Oscar and the Palme d’or at the 1956 Cannes Film Festival. A restless man, the ocean was his oxygen,

During his heyday in the 1970s, he was a household name. John Denver released a popular tribute song, “Calypso,” in 1975, and his television show, “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau” ran on ABC from 1966 to 1976. PBS then ran his “The Cousteau Odyssey” from 1977 to 1982.

After his death in 1997 from a heart attack at age 87, Cousteau’s foundation kept up his environmental work, but the younger generation doesn’t know much about his achievements. He was one of the first to sound alarms about the environment and climate change, growing more panicked about the fate of mankind as the issues grew.

His personal life was complicated – not a particularly good husband or father, which he admits on camera, and his long absences from home affected his two sons, Jean-Michel and Philippe. At age 38, Philippe was killed in a plane crash, which devastated his parents, and Jacques became more driven about work – if that was even possible.

Some of his personal flaws are merely mentioned, but not really delved into – if you’re a tad confused about his marriages, join the club. When his wife of 53 years, Simone, died of cancer in 1990, he married Francine Triplet six months later – although he already had two children with her – Diane and Pierre-Yves. (Hmmm?) Both kids are co-producers of the film. Hmmm…

And while he had missteps – working for petroleum companies early in his career, for example, to pay the bills, his legacy is undeniable.

“Becoming Cousteau” is a nostalgic reminder of how we learned more about sea life through his perspective, and what a beautiful world he introduced us – whether we were enthralled kids or intrigued adults.

“Becoming Cousteau” is a 2021 documentary from National Geographic directed by Liz Garbus. Rated PG-13 for brief strong language, some disturbing images and smoking, its run time is 1 hour, 33 minutes. It opens in theaters on Oct. 22. Lynn’s Grade: B

By Lynn Venhaus

America, we have a problem. It should be a given – one voice, one vote – but it’s not, as this film illustrates. Timely and powerful, “All In: The Fight for Democracy” should be required viewing for all citizens. When our country began, only 6% of the public could vote, and that included the rich, white landowners – not women or minorities. Voter suppression only isn’t in our nation’s history – it’s in our present. Cut to modern day politics, where it is a very real threat to democracy.

This documentary examines voter suppression in both the past and present U.S. and gives us an insider’s look into laws and barriers to voting. There are real threats to the basic rights of U.S. citizens to vote, and with a Presidential Election looming, the film highlights what needs to be done so everyone has their voice heard.

Impassioned filmmakers Lisa Cortes and Liz Garbus interweave personal experiences with current activism and historical insight. Garbus was Oscar-nominated for two documentaries, “What Happened, Miss Simone?” (for which she won an Emmy) and “The Farm: Angola, USA.” She directed two episodes and produced the HBO mini-series “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark.” Cortes won an Emmy last year for the documentary “The Apollo.”

Stacey Abrams

Front and center is Stacey Abrams, the former Minority Leader of the George House of Representatives, whose loss in the gubernatorial race is still suspect. Abrams was the first black woman to become a major party’s nominee in the U.S.

After losing in an unfair fight to the Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, Abrams has turned her focus on exposing corruption and creating awareness. She is the founder of Fair Fight Action, a national organization battling voter suppression. She encourages you to get involved and make sure elections are fair.

Most importantly, the film shows how people can fight for the right to vote and lets you know about the tools needed to protect this right.

Janelle Monae has written a song for the film called “Turntables.” Here is the link to the music video:

The film is a call to action – it will make you want to do something. And that’s a good thing. We should all take part in our democracy, because as we have learned – it is precious.

The film is also part of an ambitious and visionary action plan to reach voters and educate them across this nation that Amazon is supporting, and so are the filmmakers.

#ALLINFORVOTING is a social impact campaign with community-based organizations, non-profits, corporations, artists, activists and influencers. It is being launched ahead of National Voter Registration Day – Sept. 22 – and in coordination with the film release.

The non-partisan campaign will develop a groundswell of digital content to combat misinformation about the voting process, and launch targeted campaign programming to educate and register first-time voters, mobilize communities to have their voices and values counted in the November election (and beyond), and train citizens to know how to recognize and report voter suppression.

There will be on online digital action hub featuring resources and tools for visitors to register to vote, check registration status, get election reminders, find their polling place, access state by state election information, see what’s on my ballot, request an absentee ballot and learn how to recognize and report voter suppression.

The documentary “All In: The Fight for Democracy” is directed by Liz Garbus and Lisa Cortes. Rated: PG-13 for some disturbing violent images, thematic material and strong language – all involving racism, the run time is 1 hour, 42 minutes. Lynn’s Grade: A
In Theatres Sept. 9 and streaming on Amazon Prime Sept. 18