In today’s noisy news climate, confusion and frustration reign. What an ideal time for intelligently conceived documentaries to carve out a public space where thought-provoking reflection and conversation can unfold. Contrary to the deluge of sound bites, tweets, and posts, long format documentary invites audiences to sit with content. Like any expressive work, fiction or non-fiction, topical film cleaves to its unique point of view. But, ultimately, it is each viewer, who determines what she thinks or he feels about a subject. It is a personal, often layered, process. Audiences will have such an opportunity next week when An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power and Chasing Coral, two important new films, screen as part of Aspen Ideas Festival’s Feeling the Heat: The Big Ideas on Climate on the 2017 Public Events Schedule.
These are eloquently crafted, passionately argued works. But flowing through each is a palpable humanism that makes it worthy of a curious audience’s time and consideration. Especially in such polemical times, these screenings provide a rare forum for the climate conversation. Find a friend, whose thoughts on global warming—pro or con—differ from yours, and go see two of the summer’s finest movies.
Thursday, June 29, 7:30pm, Paepcke Auditorium
In his Emmy Award-winning film, Chasing Ice, director Jeff Orlowski worked with scientist-photographer James Balog (another 2017 Ideas Festival presenter) to document the unprecedented rate of Arctic glacier melt. In this stunning new film, Chasing Coral, Orlowski and his Exposure Labs team set out to chronicle another “invisible” disaster: coral bleaching. Marine biologists, an ad-man, camera designers, and a self-identified coral nerd literally race against the clock to bring to light a tragedy unfolding across the world’s magnificent reefs, hosts to a thriving biosphere of oceanic creatures. With its compelling, and unsettling, blend of intelligent science, luminous cinematography, and unexpected narrative twists, this gripping eco-thriller delivers a surprisingly emotional punch that is sure to move viewers and, more importantly, galvanize dialogue. When we wrote about this Sundance Audience Award winner earlier in the year, we called it an “absolute must-see.” It is more essential than ever.
When asked about the film team’s original intent, Exposure Labs’ Managing Director of Impact, Samantha Wright, explained: “Ninety three percent of the heat in the atmosphere is absorbed by the ocean. From day one we knew that if we could depict visually the effect…on our coral reefs, we could uncover a powerful story about climate change that was hiding beneath the waves. The tumultuous journey of our divers, scientists, and filmmakers to capture this…event was an adventure we knew could reach beyond the environmental choir and ignite the next wave of unlikely champions for climate action.”
Given recent shifts in the political sphere, notably the U.S.’s recent withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, Wright shared who the filmmakers especially hope to reach: “We may be experiencing some setbacks at the federal level…[But] this has created a surge of new urgency and possibility at state- and city-levels. As a result, we are doubling down on our local campaigning, working directly with communities where we can accelerate tipping points in the transition to clean energy. [This includes] working directly with communities in the Southeast that are on the front lines of climate change and are rich territory to reach across the aisle by forging unlikely partnerships from faith-based groups to the business community to professional sports teams.”
A conversation with filmmaker Jeff Orlowski, Dr. Ruth Gates, Director of the Hawai’i Institute of Marine Biology, and Nicolás Ibargüen, Environmental Correspondent and Environment Desk Director for Univision and Fusion follows the screening. Trailer: youtube.com
An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power
Friday, June 30, 7:30pm at Paepcke Auditorium
It has been more than a decade since Davis Guggenheim’s Oscar-winning An Inconvenient Truth brought former Vice President Al Gore’s urgent global warming message into the mainstream conversation. In the intervening years, neither the world’s climate, nor Mr. Gore, have stood still. This stirring sequel catches up with Mr. Gore as he travels the globe, from Greenland’s melting glaciers to Miami’s flooded streets to the typhoon-ravaged Philippines, bearing witness to the warming climate’s accelerating effects.
Filmmakers Jon Shenk and Bonni Cohen (The Island President, Audrie & Daisy) take up the directorial reins from Guggenheim (who remains involved as an executive producer), widening the earlier film’s scope by vividly illustrating Mr. Gore’s message with striking coverage of his interactions with researchers, officials, and citizens on the front lines of climate change. Much more than a mere update of the original, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power conveys a new sense of urgency, while providing an engaging portrait of a dedicated public servant.
We follow Al Gore’s determined, inspirational, and, at times, even hopeful, efforts, as he trains citizen-activists, negotiates with leaders for environmentally responsible policies, and celebrates sustainable energy advances. Where An Inconvenient Truth provided a graphically insightful survey of science and facts, this film does something different. In An Inconvenient Sequel, the future has become the present and the human costs are pressingly real. It begs a moral question: How will we act, to quote Carl Sagan, “to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.”
A conversation with filmmakers Bonni Cohen, Jon Shenk, and Dipender Saluja, Capricorn Investment Group’s Managing Director follows the screening. Trailer: youtube.com