Jonathon Van Maren

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Magnificent documentary will make you see nature with new eyes

'Riot and the Dance: Water' brings the viewer into a truly different world, one we are still discovering.
Wed Apr 8, 2020 - 7:35 pm EST
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GUDKOV ANDREY / Shutterstock.com

April 8, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – A couple of years ago, I reviewed a breathtaking and rather unique documentary in this space: The Riot and the Dance, a nature documentary created by Christian filmmakers and focusing on what the artwork of Creation can tell us about the Creator. Earlier this year, a second installment — The Riot and the Dance: Water — was released, and due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is available to watch for a limited time for free from VidAngel.

Many parents are committed to keeping their children engaged without plonking them in front of screens during this surreal time of social quarantine, but I would urge you to make an exception for this film. It is a gorgeous journey through God’s underwater ecosystems, and it reminded me all over again why I have always been obsessed with watching creatures in the wild — although when I went whale-watching most recently, I managed only to see several humpback whales breaching and a pod of orca whales. These filmmakers captured an enormous humpback surging up from the deep, propelling thirty metric tons skyward in a show of phenomenal power.

Riot and the Dance: Water brings the viewer into a truly different world, one we are still discovering. This documentary does what the previous film did so well: it calls us to see the metaphysical when we gaze into the physical realm. God created these worlds of wonder and color not for our eyes, biologist Dr. Gordon Wilson points out. After all, much of this underwater world lived on unseen by humans for untold centuries. God created them because He wanted to, because they were good, for His own pleasure. It is an observation that prompts you to view these creatures with new eyes and a new appreciation.

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Wilson introduces us not only to the strange creatures of the seafloor, but also to the dinosaur-like sturgeon, monstrous snapping turtles, and a hideous water bug in his back pond that ambushes frogs and then liquifies and drinks their insides. Gruesome, but awesome. You don’t have to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef to see incredible things: right here in North America, I’ve seen an osprey plunge into a pond and emerge with a thrashing fish, had otters jump into my lap as I sat along with river (entirely by accident), and picked up plenty of painted turtles off the road.

But there is something especially captivating about the monsters of the deep, and Wilson seems unperturbed by danger. He follows a huge, mournful-looking octopus with his camera, a creature that looks, in the words of P.G. Wodehouse, “like a sheep with a secret sorrow.” I’ve had one of them suddenly flash past my face in an explosion of legs while snorkeling and will confess that I didn’t care for the experience one bit. There is something about being entirely out of your own habitat and immersed in the world of other creatures that lends itself to a sense of slight but very real danger.

I was quite taken aback when Wilson went shark-diving off the coast of Hawaii without a cage, the sleek predators gliding around him. I went shark diving in Cape Town a few years ago, and we were told that even a Great White could turn on a dime and take your arm off if it felt so inclined. It makes for great footage, but there’s no way I could be persuaded to swim freely with sharks, regardless of low the risks might ostensibly be. 

This film is beautifully made, and my only complaint would be the occasionally jarring music selections, which often seemed to have a lot more to do with the filmmakers’ taste than what was taking place on-screen. I hope that this second installment signals a trend in documentary filmmaking: BBC-level quality nature films that linger not on the Darwinian nightmare but on the artistic intent of the Creator. 

Jonathon’s new podcast, The Van Maren Show, is dedicated to telling the stories of the pro-life and pro-family movement. In his latest episode, he speaks with David Benham, who was recently arrested while praying outside an abortion facility. Benham talks about the experience, how the government is using the COVID-19 panic to censor pro-lifers, and what we need to do to fight back.

You can subscribe here and listen to the episode below: 


  christianity, creation, documentary, environment, nature

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