Lights, Camera, Activism

Global warming goes to the movies. By Liz Cole

Sundance Film Festival is getting greener. Hybrid car companies sponsored this year’s celebrity endorsement “gifting lounges,” and Steaz drinks, Lush soaps and other organic products filled swag bags. And most importantly, several of the featured films tackled tough environmental issues. 

Everything’s Cool is one of those films. It’s a funny and upbeat take on a pretty serious question: Why do most citizens see global warming as distant and irrelevant, and why do our leaders approach this crisis with apathy, denial, and perhaps even criminal neglect?

Directors Judith Helfand and Daniel Gold shape the debate with a diverse crew of experts and activists whom they follow over a three-year period: journalist Ross Gelbspan, author of The Heat Is On: The High Stakes Battle Over Earth's Threatened Climate; Heidi Cullen, a meteorologist with her own global warming show on the Weather Channel; Rick Piltz, a public servant blowing the lid off White House manipulation of global warming science; an Inuit community in Alaska that must decide whether to move its entire village, or stay and risk getting washed into the sea, among others. Fighting their unique battles in different corners of the globe, they all work to get the message out about climate change.

Helfand and Gold give top billing to grassroots activists, and these “real people” make celebrity posturing—like when Salma Hayek and Jake Gyllenhaal cavort with Inuits on ice for an aerial photo op—look like real activism’s idiot cousin.  A high point of the film is when Bish, a ski resort snow groomer turned bio diesel entrepreneur, hoots for joy after producing a bona fide batch of bio-diesel for his Mercedes and drives off into the sunset.

However, the filmmakers devote surprisingly little time to covering the poor communities at home and abroad that often bear the brunt of environmental crises. Since the film is, at least in part, about social justice, it’s a shame that they devote a lot of time to people marching in Vermont to protest global warming, while the Inuit community gets only a few fleeting minutes on camera.

The final version of the film has yet to be released, and Helfand and Gold have a big task ahead of them. Although there are still some rough edges to smooth out and more footage to add, the concept behind the film is engaging, and I’m looking forward to a final version that picks up where An Inconvenient Truth leaves off—and maybe even improves on it with humor and flare.

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