Golden Earth Film Award's Best Documentary Film winner of January 2019 Edition

Best Documentary Film

Murder on the Reef Directed by Allen Dobrovolsky, Alex Fitzwater

Poster of the Film

a Story about Murder on the Reef follows the hotly debated issues surrounding the world’s largest living structure, the Great Barrier Reef. But is it too late? Many scientists now believe as much as fifty percent of the corals in the Great Barrier Reef have died. Through a complex mix of voices from locals, to scientists and indigenous spokespeople, this documentary traces the many culprits including water contamination, crown-of-thorns starfish and dredging. But the elephant in the room is climate change and some of the exhausted scientists believe the fight is futile.

In 2016 a massive bleaching event rendered much of the coral in the northern end of the Great Barrier Reef lifeless and colourless but no-one predicted another event would occur the following year. This back to back bleaching was unprecedented and took everyone by surprise including scientists, who had studied these events for many years. While a classroom full of university students wept watching aerials of the devastation, in Canberra, politicians supported by big coal continued their assault on the science.

Australia is the largest exporter of coal which is the largest contributor to emissions and one of the biggest financial contributors to political parties. Banks have stopped funding coal mines in Australia. But the government continue to support these ventures going so far as to brandish a lump of coal on the lower house floor imploring colleagues to see its virtues. “Don’t be afraid of coal” one yells. This is mild compared to the mudslinging that has become commonplace in a parliament more divided and dirtier than ever before. Meanwhile, once vibrant corals are turning white, and the reef is becoming an indicator for what will happen globally.


About the Director: Allen Dobrovolsky, Alex Fitzwater

I started my scientific career with a PhD research of the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. In 1997 I established a consulting firm and received my environmental laboratory accreditation by the National Association of Testing Authorities in 2003.

I’ve been always fascinated by the unique natural beauty of the Australian environment, particularly, by the Great Barrier Reef. As a conscientious scientist, I’ve been following the developments around the environmental issues of the proposed and approved sediment dredging operations in the vicinity of the reefs.

Since 2014 I’ve been conducting my own monitoring program at the Great Barrier Reef in order to evaluate the changes in the water quality at the reef.

Soon after a team of independent videographers joined my expeditions. We had an opportunity to interview top coral and marine research scientists, along with locals, activists, politicians and indigenous leaders, who were all concerned about the poor outlook for the reef due to the multiple port developments along the reef that are contributing to its poor health.

In February 2017, I established a film production branch, AESA Films, within my main environmental consulting firm in order to complete a documentary about the environmental and political issues at the reef.




Trailer of the film




Behind the scenes of the film



© 2018 Golden Earth Film Award

  • w-facebook