On the eve of the 10th Anniversary of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, Green Film Fest Founder Rachel Caplan reflects on the legacy of this film and its influence on the annual Festival.
Ten years ago, I sat down to watch Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth with some curiosity. I was in the film industry and although environmental issues were on my radar, tackling climate change wasn’t part of my daily working life.
The next two hours changed the direction of my career and, in many ways, my life. That graph – with its upward trajectory of irreversible damage to our earth – is a picture I can’t forget.
It wasn’t just the film’s message, but the way it sold that message that inspired me. It was the first time I can remember film being used in a way that was building a movement and inspiring people to take action on climate.
Four years after Gore’s film appeared, I launched the very first Green Film Fest. It was a rollercoaster ride, but the response was clear - the Festival was about more than just showing movies.
It got people into a room together, to share the stories that were on screen and to talk about the most relevant environmental issues. Since then we’ve honed in on the power of that “a-ha!” moment, when the credits roll, the lights come up, and you feel moved and motivated for what comes next.
Getting people together, giving them the chance to talk to expert speakers, and giving space for that lightbulb moment is what makes the Festival more than just a collection of nice films and an evening out. It’s about something deeper.
Occasionally it’s not that comfortable and sometimes those films aren’t all that nice – some grab hold of you and make you face many inconvenient truths - so that when you leave the theater you’re not quite the same person you were when you went in.
That’s our aim – to make you sit up, to shift the needle, to build momentum.
Around 80% of our audiences have said they were moved to make a change after being at the Festival: the mom who realized her toddler should be spending more time outside in nature, the man who challenged a mobile phone company about their e-waste, the office intern who went vegetarian. The films we show spark questions – voting positions, lifestyle choices, where to spend our money.
An Inconvenient Truth inspired a generation of filmmakers to get behind the camera and force us to confront some unsavory situations. It’s one thing to read about an issue in a newspaper from arm’s length, but to spend 90 minutes or a couple of hours with a character, to really get to know them, provokes an entirely different, much more human, response.
These filmmakers have clocked that empathy is one of our most powerful tools for change. Rather than being the observer, we are there, we are part of it. And more often than not, we realize we can’t just stand back and watch anymore.
Now into our 6th year, the motivation to bring you the most important and inspiring environmental films is higher than ever. Today’s filmmakers continue to challenge those in power to respond to people on the frontlines of climate change.
You’ll see this at Opening Night as we kick-off with Josh Fox’s How to Let Go of the World (and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change) throughout the Festival to our Closing Night World Premiere, Mark Decena’s Not Without Us.
Join us April 14 thru 20 and be part of a truly unique community.
We can’t wait to meet you at the movies!
Check out the second part of our An Inconvenient Legacy series, with 2016 Festival filmmakers giving their take on the film's impact on their work.
Find out more about the 2016 Green Film Fest, which takes place at the Castro Theatre, Roxie, Koret Auditorium at the SF Public Library Main Branch, and several venues in Berkeley.