Dear EarthTalk: I can’t believe An Inconvenient Truth is already 10 years old. What are some of the best environmental documentaries that have come out recently?
—Scott Andersen, Joplin, MO
While potent in its day as the film that put climate change on the public radar, An Inconvenient Truth, now a decade old, is hardly the last word in green documentaries anymore. Perhaps that honor will go to Disobedience, a 35-minute paean to how grassroots activism can be the lever that finally topples the dominance of fossil fuels. The film’s producers hope to spark new interest in fighting global warming.
Released on April 30 via hundreds of self-organized watch-parties and dozens of independent cinemas—while hundreds of thousands more viewers stream it for free online—Disobedience includes interviews with some of the most renowned voices in the global discourse around social movements and climate change. Conversations with environmental luminaries including author/activist Bill McKibben and filmmaker and globalization critic Naomi Klein are interwoven with riveting verité footage of everyday people organizing and fighting for a livable climate.
Global Warming: Still an Inconvenient Truth
Another new climate-oriented doc is The Cross of the Moment, which producers describe as “a deep-green, deep-time discussion of the environmental crisis…that attempts to connect the dots between Fermi’s Paradox, climate change, capitalism and collapse.” The 80-minute film, available for free streaming on Vimeo, features interviews with top scientists and public intellectuals woven together into a narrative that critics praise as “challenging, exhausting and unflinching.” A host of experts such as doomsday climatologist Guy McPherson and Beat poet and bioregionalism guru Gary Snyder discuss humanity’s prospects for surviving catastrophic climate change.
Another solid choice is last year’s Revolution, an epic adventure into the evolution of life on Earth and the revolution to save it. Director Rob Stewart, best known for his award-winning 2008 doc Sharkwater, spent four years and travelled to 15 different countries to produce Revolution, which brings viewers face-to-face with sharks, lemurs, seahorses and cuttlefish among other amazing creatures. Through it all, Stewart stays positive and showcases activists and individuals around the world who are winning the battle to save the ecosystems we all depend on for survival.
Still others include: Fossil Free, which chronicles the mission of impassioned climate activists around the world; Our Rising Oceans, where scientists in Antarctica show us how climate change is already spawning dire consequences; Fractured Earth, in which everyday Pennsylvanians take on Big Oil in trying to keep fracking off their land; and Oil and Water, an examination of the uneasy alliance between the fishing and oil and gas industries in coastal Louisiana.
YouTube: A New Paradigm for Docs
Meanwhile, a new breed of YouTube-savvy filmmakers is calling into question whether long-form documentaries are still relevant, given viewers’ shorter attention spans and ability to click away in a flash to something more engaging. To wit, activist, artist and filmmaker Jordan Brown (AKA Jore) has released a series of short films on YouTube that focus on the interface between the dominant culture and the real impact on people, society and the environment. His 11-minute piece, Forget Shorter Showers, for instance, lays out the case for why people need to do much more than just take individual actions if they want to save themselves and the planet. Jore argues that only through organizing and working together can we directly challenge the industrial systems leading us down the path to planetary destruction.