Saturday, May 19, 2007

An Inconvenient Truth (2006)

An Inconvenient Truth (2006)

Sometimes referred to as 'Al Gore's Powerpoint Presentation' (ironic; he apparently used Apple Keynote), 'An Inconvenient Truth' is an accessible documentary that serves as a primer on global warming and climate change. It primarily consists of footage of Gore making a presentation to a live audience, one that he has given many many times all over the world. This presentation is inter-cut with other footage relevant to the points being discussed, as well as sequences that focus on Al Gore and his personal life that aim to give some background info on the man.

First, what doesn't work - the Al Gore stuff. While I can appreciate that they were trying to break it up a bit to prevent information overload and that information on the presenter himself gives some insight as to why he does what he does, it doesn't really work. It's very slight and superficial and uninteresting, and often completely irrelevant. Fortunately, that stuff is short. The rest of it is very good - Gore is not an overly exciting speaker, but he's clear and engaging, and maintains a sobriety appropriate to the subject matter (which makes his sudden quips quite funny). The content is well presented and cogent, encompassing pretty much all the major issues surrounding global warming.

Starting with an explanation of what it is (including a brilliant clip from Futurama) and why it's a serious issue, he goes on to paint a picture of how it has impacted and will continue to impact the Earth, touches on the weight of scientific evidence and consensus on the effect man is having on the climate, and attempts to dispel common misconceptions. He also examines the political and economic aspects of global warming. The conclusion puts across the message that it isn't too late or hopeless, and encourages the audience to try and effect change.

There's not much to discuss with regard to the film-making, given that most of it is just footage of a presentation! The subject matter is discussed at a fairly basic level, but that's really its purpose - a general overview. One thing that did irk me was the way some things were just presented matter of factly as direct consequences of global warming, such as random clips of catastrophes without any context or explanation. These sorts of moments, which are there to elicit an emotional reaction, only crop up occasionally but they undermine all of the valid content that is backed up by actual science. Regardless of all the controversy surrounding the topic, it ought to be clear to anyone who cares to look that there is a scientific consensus. Of course, since acting on that consensus would require changing the status quo in a manner that requires more effort and sacrifice (and that will hurt certain groups with vested interests), there's a 'controversy'. As 'An Inconvenient Truth' points out though, nobody is suggesting we revert back to our caveman ways; really, it involves doing things better, more efficiently, and with long term sustainability in mind. That ought to be something to aim for regardless of global warming.

Anyway, to conclude, it's a very good but not brilliant documentary that is informative and engaging. Great for people who haven't been following this topic, and a nice summary that collates all aspects of the topic for those who have (and there's sure to be some things that are new to all but the most well informed). Unquestionably worth watching.

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