Deliberately so, I’m guessing, this year’s Sundance Film Festival kicked off with a screening of a new documentary about the continuing impact of global warming and the efforts that have been made and advanced by former Vice President Al Gore, since the doc An Inconvenient Truth came out 10 years ago. As we learn in An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, Gore has barely taken a break in the past decade with his efforts to get the nations of the world (including the very stubborn United States) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the near future and beyond.
I say the timing of the screening seemed intentional because it was the day before Donald Trump was inaugurated as president (the film also screened publicly a second time on Inauguration Day, pretty much driving home the point), and on the campaign, Trump threatened to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement that was signed by Obama in early 2016. For those who may be unfamiliar, the agreement deals with global greenhouse emission regulations and is set to kick in at the beginning in 2020. One of An Inconvenient Sequel’s most humbling moments comes in one of its final scenes, when Gore is watching the election results in November, and you can see the mild panic in his eyes as he wonders if his work for the last 20 years is about to be erased. It’s one of the few moments in the film that doesn’t feel like it overpraises Gore as an environmental crusader.
Co-directors Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk (Audrie & Daisy, The Rape of Europa) do a solid job capturing Gore’s path in the last few years, going from conference to education session, in his attempts to give everyone from corporation CEOs to everyday citizens the tools to help heal the environment. This is less the PowerPoint presentation brought to life approach of the previous film and more of a straightforward documentary, but the filmmakers do capture a few rare instances of Gore getting genuinely emotional and passionate (perhaps even a little pissed off at how stubborn certain people can be) about his cause. It’s also admirable that An Inconvenient Sequel allows us to see Gore’s efforts get outright defeated or overturned due to the influence of corporate greed or shady politics.
As for some of the film’s new science, the outlook is still not good, with some climatologists claiming the best we can do is slow down what is now inevitable, leaving us with a desperately short future. A quick jaunt to Greenland reveals the shocking toll global warming has taken on glaciers, and the once-distant possibility of underwater coastal cities is quickly becoming a reality.
I’ve seen a great number of documentaries about the environmental crisis since An Inconvenient Truth, and aside from getting a revealing and seemingly honest look at Gore’s day-to-day workload and struggle to keep hope alive and educate people on the topic, Sequel covers a lot of familiar territory and in a less-than-interesting way cinematically. I still recommend you check it out, since Al Gore is a fantastic spokesperson for the cause, but the film is a fairly artless endeavor with an admittedly solid, significant message.
The film opens today at the Landmark Century Center Cinema.