An Inconvenient Truth

WWF had an advance screening of An Inconvenient Truth last night at the Dendy Opera Quays. We had around 250 people come to the night, and by all accounts it was a successful night.

For those that missed it, Dendy is running preview screenings at various cinemas this week – they’ve got more info on their website.

On the second viewing I still had the same minor qualms I had the first time round, but I did pick up on a few things more clearly this time. I do wish they’d modified the closing credits to reflect each local release (“write to your MP” rather than “write to congress” for example), but again, that’s a minor thing.

I do really hope that a wide audience gets to see the film, although I suspect the sceptics will remain sceptics given Margaret Pomeranz’s odd response to the film on last night’s At the Movies.

Despite giving the film four stars, she apparently (I’ve heard this second hand – would love to know if there’s a transcript somewhere?) says she wants to see an unbiased presentation and that we should get an unbiased body to report on it.

Update 2006-09-12: David posted a review that, among other things, includes Margaret’s statements.

In the film I think Gore goes out of his way to cover off all the typical objections in an unbiased manner. In one part of the film, and last night this stuck out as the most important point, he demonstrated that a review of roughly 10% of all the scientific studies (one assumes these would be reasonably “unbiased”) showed that none of them contradicted the fact that global warming is happened. That’s right – 0%.

And yet media reports of the global warming suggested that there was still some doubt about global warming 53% of the time. Little wonder, then, that people are confused.

Would Margaret consider the findings of NASA, the IPCC, or the U.N. unbiased? ‘Coz they all accept global warming as a real problem that needs action. Hopefully, over time, that message will break through the confusion.

Update 2006-09-12: David also suggests why Margaret asks the question:

…people are used to social documentaries that concentrate on conflict – where people from two very different viewpoints are interviewed and their opposing views and stories presented. Documentaries do this because they want to appear to be balanced (though they rarely are) and perhaps more so because playing up the conflict creates drama and interest.

When that format is absent from a movie, I think people naturally ask whether they’re being told the whole truth. I guess it’s also because climate change science is presented popularly as much more controversial than it truly is. I would have liked to see Gore engage some of the main opposing arguments a little more – even if they don’t truly deserve airtime.

Well put – much better than I did 😉 I thought some more about this on the weekend too, and I actually came to the conclusion that I’m glad Margaret asks the question – for a couple of reasons.

The first is that hers was an honest reaction to the film. I live in a bubble of sorts where I’m exposed to the science and frustrated by the so-called “sceptics” and media skew (see above). So it’s important that I hear what Margaret has to say to pop that bubble and get me back to reality – as well as giving me some insight as to the issues other people are likely to come across when watching the film.

The second is that she’s obviously been touched by the film and is thinking about the issue. Her awareness has been raised and I suspect she’ll dig a little deeper, and hopefully will find the evidence she felt was lacking in the film.

I think that second point is amplified with David’s final comment:

It certainly gets people thinking and talking about the issues. Our Saturday night was spent talking climate change, Kyoto and politics until the early hours of Sunday morning – not the usual Saturday night fare.

If that’s all the film does, I think it has been a done a tremendous service.

An Inconvenient Truth WWF advance screening

Speaking of An Inconvenient Truth – if ya want to come along to an advanced screening, WWF is putting on a preview on September 6 at Dendy Opera Quays. Tix cost $15 with a small proceed going to WWF – but as you know from my recent review, I think it’s a must see film so come along if ya can. I’ll be going, and hopefully hanging about for a few drinks after at the Opera Bar.

Bookings through WWF – details here.

Review: An Inconvenient Truth

As I mentioned previously, I had the opportunity to see An Inconvenient Truth at the Sydney Film Festival. I never quite got around to writing my thoughts up, but I figured better late than never eh?

Let me first say that I thought the movie was excellent. It is a well edited, well shot movie that eloquently explains why global warming (or climate change, climate crisis, atmospheric cancer, whatever you want to call it) is such an important issue. As someone who works for an environmental NGO, there wasn’t a whole lot that Al Gore says that I hadn’t already read or heard. But what impressed me most was the delivery of the message.

The visual support (namely, the presentation upon which the doco is based) was superb. The visuals not only re-inforced the message, they illustrated it so well even I found myself with my jaw dropping in places. It certainly makes me consider how we (as in "the movement") communicate visually – I think we can learn a lot from Gore’s presentation.

If I was to criticise the movie in any way, I would point to it’s American-centric view. It’s only a criticism in the sense that an international audience may be a little alienated by it, but the American public, for whom the documentary is obviously aimed, definitely needs to see this movie (America is the #1 greenhouse gas polluter in the world), and if that means taking an Amercian-centric view, so be it. So I can’t criticise this aspect too heavily.

Another minor criticism I would have is that the interstitial segments on Al Gore’s life, although I think work as a narrative device, do tend towards the "Al Gore, seen here looking out a window in deep thought" kinda vibe a bit too much. A little indulgent perhaps, but a minor criticism nonetheless.

Lastly, the actions that appear in the closing credits are cleverly presented, but fall into the "list of ten" category and really don’t mean much without explanation. There’s a little bit more on the movie’s website, but not much. It wouldn’t fit within the film to have more information, but I do wish they could have dropped the "Al Gore staring out the window" shots and put a bit more effort into describing the solutions at the end of the film.

My first thoughts upon leaving the cinema was "I really hope that lots of people get to see this" – more than the left-leaning inner-westies and usual suspects. I’m trying to work out how to get my family to go along – I think I might just have to buy them tickets.

I did notice that Hoyts George Street (the main cinema strip in the Sydney CBD for those that don’t know) is going to be showing it, which is a good sign. I kinda expected that this would be a Dendy only release initially, so it’s good to see it jump that first hurdle into the mainstream cinema’s early. Whether that means that it will receive a wide general release remains to be seen.

I asked Ang, who is aware of the threat of global warming, but not so close to the reports, facts and data that I am, did find some new information in the film, which is great. I will be thoroughly recommending the film to my friends and family when it reaches broader theatrical release mid September.

WWF-Australia (my day job for those that don’t know) will be actively promoting the film, as I’m sure many other environmental NGOs will. It’s an important story, well told. And I’d like to think that the Prime Minister Howard would have a tough time attacking the credibility of this particular global warming advocate. I do hope that Gore manages to meet with Howard when he is out here promoting the film.

Two last quick things to add – this film (along with Syriana, another Participant Productions film) is "climate neutral". That means that an estimate of all the carbon dioxide emitted during the production and promotion of the film has been "offset" through investments in renewable technology and other methods of reducing CO2 in our atmosphere. Participant Productions also run a group blog that is a very interesting way to "continue the debates" around their films. An interesting use of social media to promote their films and engage with their audience. Bravo, I say…

Al Gore at TED 2006

Al Gore talking at the TED conference:

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Sounds a bit like a stump speech – and the jury is still out on Carbon Storage and Sequestration (CSS) – which he suggests as a way to continue using fossil fuels safely. From what I’ve read on it, CSS seems to me to be an interim solution at best.

But he talks a lot about language and CO2 emissions, branding the “climate crisis”, and how the American public can effect change. An interesting extension to An Inconvenient Truth.