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An Inconvenient Truth (02/04/2007)
By David Robinson


     
An Inconvenient Truth, now available on DVD, was screened last weekend at the Frozen River Film Festival. Ironically, the weather belied the film's contention that global warming is not only occurring but accelerating. Yet, even in the depths of a Minnesota weather, its case for the reality of global warming is strong"”and alarming.

The core of the film is a lecture by Al Gore, who introduces himself as the "ex-next President of the United States."¯ (Throughout, Gore shatters the stereotype that he is a wooden, humorless man.) The lecture, as he later relates, is one that he has given over a thousand times, in venues worldwide. So he is at ease, working without notes, using graphs, cartoons, even a hydraulic lift to make and reiterate his point that the pace of change in the earth's atmosphere and waters is headed "off the charts."¯

Intercut with the lecture, a series of photos and film clips covers Gore's life from his childhood in Tennessee through his political career and up to the present, where he has returned to private life. It establishes how a college teacher first showed him that the Earth's carbon dioxide levels were increasing, launching him on what would become a lifelong crusade, one of increasing urgency in the disastrous wake of, for instance, Hurricane Katrina. In the film's course, he takes numerous jabs at those who deny the undeniable: his political opponents, Big Oil, the popular press which continues to insist on a "fair and balanced"¯ approach when the scientific verdict has long since been issued. At one point, he notes that, of over 900 scientifically-respectable journal articles, none offers a serious critique of his position.

In short, all those for whom the truth(s) that the movie documents are "inconvenient"¯ are faced and carefully answered. Director David Guggenheim keeps the tone calm, but without deleting the passion of Gore's commitment. Gore is an engaging lecturer"”moreso than his political stump speeches might lead one to believe"”but even a good speaker can wear thin after an hour or so. So Guggenheim's camerawork and editing are crucial in maintaining visual interest. The film, one of the very few documentaries to achieve box office success, has been nominated for and won numerous critical awards, and kudos. (Roger Ebert, for instance, insists that "You owe it to yourself to see this film."¯)

An Inconvenient Truth is the odds-on favorite to win the Oscar for Best Documentary next month. I'm rooting for it, not only because of its cinematic excellence, but because of the importance of its message. It speaks to us urgently, with deep conviction about a matter that we cannot choose but address and attend to. It is not a despairing film: Gore argues that we have the tools, but have lacked the political will to reverse a deadly process. As the credits roll, steps that one can take immediately continually appear. If for no other reason, buy or rent and watch it. 

 

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