“The first expedition I went on was at nine years old when I joined my grandfather, grandmother, and their team aboard Calypso in the Amazon,” recalls Céline Cousteau of the several weeks she spent in the rain forest with her grandfather, the legendary explorer and filmmaker Jacques Cousteau. “That experience influenced my relationship with the Amazon and is one of the reasons why I feel an attachment to it.”
In 2007, Cousteau was invited to attend a meeting of the indigenous tribes of Brazil’s Vale do Javari, a sprawling rain forest territory that is home to thousands of indigenous people with various stages of contact to the outside world. These tribes are under great threat to survive because of resource extraction, deforestation, and disease. “They asked me to tell their story to the world in the hopes that global knowledge of their existence will help them get support to survive land threats and a health crisis,” Cousteau says about Tribes on the Edge, her next film, which will be released this fall. “It's really a universal story about the human tribe on the edge. In the end, we are the species at risk."
Cousteau's adventures have taken her swimming with anacondas and caiman in the Amazon, diving in Antarctica, trekking in the jungle with shamans for an ayahuasca ceremony, and solo paragliding that resulted in a broken arm and whiplash. “Overall, however, the most challenging part of these expeditions is doing more than just filmmaking, but rather being a participant,” she says. "If we only bring back stories and don't use them to help solve problems, we are just witnesses and not taking action."
Cousteau has made numerous documentaries for PBS, Discovery Channel, and other networks, founded CauseCentric Productions, which uses storytelling to support environmental and socio-cultural causes, and the Celine Cousteau Film Fellowship, a mentorship program for the next generation of outdoor filmmakers and activists. "My main focus is looking at the relationship of people to the environment, whether this takes place in the ocean, jungle, or other ecosystem,” she says. “I feel that my grandfather would be proud of my work."