The Volcano: Rescue From Whakaari, a new documentary from Netflix, revisits the deadly 2019 Whakaari volcano eruption off the coast of New Zealand.
The film, directed by Oscar contender Rory Kennedy and executive produced by Leonardo DiCaprio and Ron Howard, depicts the terrible minute-to-minute experience of tourist groups on the island whose ordinary sightseeing excursion turned into a nightmare of toxic ash and lava.
Using first-hand testimonies from survivors and rescuers, it attempts to convey the overwhelming dread of that day for everyone involved. The trailer includes some terrifying imagery from the explosion as well as accounts from those who were there.
The trailer begins by setting the scene for that particular day. The day was beautiful, and the hike was excellent. However, there was always the risk that something would go horribly wrong, and when the volcano erupted, all hell broke loose.
As the ash began to fall, the footage shows people on boats and on the island racing to get away from the eruption, despite the fact that, as evidenced by the injuries sustained by survivors, it was nearly impossible to leave unhurt. Survivors recall the unfathomable heat on the island and the anxiety that they wouldn’t make it out alive.
Despite the appalling conditions, several rescuers went out to save as many people as they could, despite the fact that police and others were forbidden from entering the island. The footage shows how a community banded together to save so many people who would otherwise perish on the island.
Because smartphones with cameras are so widespread nowadays, the Volcano is mainly possible. While cinematographers Dominic Fryer, Mike Jonathan, Mark Lapwood, and Murray Milne assisted in putting it all together, Kennedy told Filmmaker Magazine that the film captured by tourists allowed her to give the impression that every instant of the calamity mattered.
“Given the proliferation of cellphones and video cameras, as well as the fact that this was indeed a tourist activity,” she explained, “I believed there had to be footage that would allow me to stay close to the ground, minute by minute, and that by structuring the film in that way, the sum total of those minutes would add up to something larger.”
Kennedy first screened the documentary at the AFI and DOC NYC film festivals in advance of the 22-year anniversary of the eruption.
The Volcano is the most current in a long line of documentaries directed by the prolific filmmaker, who is best known for her work on the Academy Award-nominated Last Days in Vietnam, American Hollow, Ghosts of Abu Ghraib, and, most recently, Downfall: The Case Against Boeing. She is also working on two untitled documentaries, one about Synanon and the other about World War II refugees.
Executive producers for the picture include Brian Grazer, Jennifer Davisson, and Phillip Watson, in addition to DiCaprio and Howard. Producers include Mark Bailey, Dallas Brennan Rexer, Sara Bernstein, and Justin Wilkes.
On December 16, Netflix will release The Volcano: Rescue From Whakaari. View the trailer below.