Like many of his generation, Dan Cogan, the producer of “Becoming Cousteau,” vividly remembers when he first became familiar with the French filmmaker. “I was seven-years-old and sitting on the floor in front of my television and being wowed when I shown his ‘World of Sharks’ and ‘The Story of the Whales.’ Every Sunday night was ‘Wild Kingdom’ and Jacques Cousteau,” Cogan tells Gold Derby in our Meet the Experts: Film Documentary panel (watch the exclusive video interview above). The thought that many might not know who Jacques Cousteau was served as a catalyst for making this film. “It was just shocking to me when I realized that that incredible legacy was disappearing. That’s what began a six year journey to make this film…and to see if we could bring Cousteau back into the cultural conversation of this important moment.”
“Becoming Cousteau,” from National Geographic, explores the life of the famous filmmaker and conservationist. Director Liz Garbus examines how Cousteau first got started on the ocean and his development of underwater filming technology all the way through his later years as an advocate for preserving the environment. Cogan, who is also married to Garbus, was one of the winners of the Best Documentary Feature Oscar in 2017 for “Icarus.”
One of the most fascinating things Cogan found out about Cousteau was how he originally financed his work. “In order to pay for his adventures and his explorations, he did a lot of oil prospecting. He found oil for a lot of countries in the Gulf on the Calypso.” He stresses that this was all before the impacts of fossil fuels were known in the scientific community and that Cousteau would become a fighter against such technology. “He changed, he evolved and the things that he once did, he would never do again.”
Cogan also laments the fact that our society does not have a figure that is on the level of Cousteau. “He spoke to and had influence on everyone of all political persuasions and that, in our polarized world, that kind of figure, it sadly doesn’t exist.” He also speaks to Cousteau’s ability to unite people around a common cause as something that is sorely lacking in our society. “It speaks to part of Cousteau’s legacy which is we have to try to build a sense of commonality around our goals to protect both human civilization and the oceans and that’s what Cousteau would be doing right now.”
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