An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power hit the big screens around the nation this week. An eagerly awaited continuation of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, this film takes viewers on an emotional journey through climate change effects across the world, behind-the-scenes workings of the Paris Climate Accord, and the empowering proliferation of clean energy solutions – big and small.
I had a chance to interview the filmmakers, Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk, and ask them about their eyewitness experience to climate change while filming, and the importance of balancing climate science and personal stories. I discovered three main takeaways from both the film and my conversation with the directors.
An Inconvenient Sequel premieres today, Aug. 4th, at Landmark’s Uptown Theatre. Pick your local showtime and #BeInconvenient.
The film’s sense of hope comes at the perfect time
In the face of denial and policy setbacks from the Trump administration, our country and the world have responded with a resurgence of climate action – from the March for Science to groups such as the U.S. Climate Alliance and Climate Mayors. Although An Inconvenient Sequel addresses the environmental threats we’re up against in combination with science denial, the filmmakers have recognized a natural hope through the narrative of Al’s day-to-day experience. They saw hope as the emotional “connect-the-dots” to make this issue more personal for viewers and in efforts to express the momentum of climate advocacy today.
“Part of the problem of climate change has been getting people to connect to it,” said Shenk. “They think about it as a far off problem in the future that will affect other people. Now, it’s becoming increasingly common for people to recognize it in their part of the world. I think people have lived with the issue long enough to really start understanding that we have a choice to make around what kind of world we want to leave our children and grandchildren. I think that really sunk in for Bonni and me for this project. There is a choice now.”
Climate storytelling helps us move forward and take action
The audience follows Al as he visits the melting ice caps of Greenland, talks with survivors of the horrific hurricane that killed thousands and flattened the city of Tacloban, and sheds lights on extreme weather events that flood our streets and flatten our homes here in America. It’s not just the images that make these events so powerful, but the stories as well. Seeing the faces and hearing the stories of those who have survived through catastrophic events is not only heartbreaking, but an experience in compassion as well.
“In the medium of film, storytelling is what it’s all about,” said Cohen. “There have been a lot of climate change films in the last decade, and a lot of them do focus on the science which is incredibly important, but you also have to figure out a way to personalize it so that you see how it affects you in your own community.”
In a way, the film is a representation of Al’s climate story. To start planning the film, Shenk and Cohen looked at Al Gore’s schedule for the 2015–2016 year.
“We started to make calculations about where the emotional triggers are in this story, and put them together,” said Cohen. “When we went to see Al for that first presentation, he would embed in conversation where he had collected the material, or what scientist he had talked to, or which person he had met to talk about the Paris Climate Accord. We suddenly thought, those conversations, those trips he’s taking, those trainings…those are the makings of real scenes for a film. To see him do that work in the relentless fashion that he does it–with the climate crisis accelerating on the one hand but the sustainability revolution also accelerating on the other–we thought, if we get behind the scenes with him we can bring that to life.”
In the climate movement, individual actions are just as important as big ones
While Al represents those working on big picture initiatives and solutions at the global and policy level, the importance of individual lifestyle actions are just as important. The film features Al speaking at his Climate Reality trainings across the world, where thousands have completed the program and gone on to lead in communicating the science of climate change to their communities.
“When you see Al putting the climate crisis in terms of a social cause, kind of comparing it to the civil rights movement, the suffrage movement, or the gay rights movement – it made a lot of sense to us,” said Shenk. “We felt that was important for the audience to hear because it reflects where we are with this issue. I think the world is waking up to the fact that this is the issue of our time.”
The film captures both Al’s humor and humanity, and the earnest need for collaboration from world leaders. However, this film isn’t meant to be simply watched. It’s meant to be talked about, shared, and acted upon. Just as An Inconvenient Truth brought the conversation around global warming to new heights, this film has the power to inspire more people to ask, “What next? How can I help?” After my conversation with Shenk and Cohen, and watching the film, I feel more empowered than ever to connect people with actions and solutions they can incorporate into their lives to fight for our planet. And, the first one I recommend is to go see the film.
If you’re interested in steps you can take to act on climate change, visit our Take Action or Resources page for ideas and more information. Are you an educator? Check out Climate Generation’s curriculum resources, or access customized screening kits and lesson plans developed by The National Wildlife Federation.