Facing The Realities: A Few Minutes with Bonni Cohen; the co-director of ‘An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth To Power’

Posted in Blu-Ray/DVD, Interviews, Movies by - November 07, 2017
Facing The Realities: A Few Minutes with Bonni Cohen; the co-director of ‘An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth To Power’

There’s an undeniable urgency to the truth…

It’s not often we get a sequel to a documentary but with An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth To Power we get exactly that.  Ten years after the award winning An Inconvenient Truth; former vice president Al Gore continues to fight the good fight on a cause that affects us all as the stakes get even higher and higher on a global level with solutions to it all that are still within our grasp.

Now available on DVD, Blu-Ray and On Demand this documentary brings this issue of global warming with even more urgency and vibrancy then we’ve seen in the past.  We got the unique please to sit down with co-director Bonni Cohen on how she became involved with the project, the importance of seeing what has happened in the past ten years not only to Al Gore but to the planet and the technology that could ultimately reverse the issues of global warming as well as making a sequel that didn’t repeat itself but instead advanced the narrative of the global discussion that has to take place.


Dave Voigt: Sequels to documentaries don’t exactly happen every day; walk me through the process of how you ultimately became involved with making An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth To Power?

Bonni Cohen: Well we were approached by Participant Media who produced the first film in 2006 and they were interested in taking a look at ten years later where we were with the climate crisis and to also look at the solutions and the new information that had just not been in place years prior in hopes of trying to find a solution to the crisis.  They reached out to us to see if we were interested in directing the film and they had also talked with Davis Guggenheim and the producers of the first film who felt like they had really left everything that they could possibly do on the table with the first one but did come on as executive producers.  They all felt that they wanted to find some fresh directors who had some experience in the climate change world who also had experience telling dramatic narratives in the documentary format.  That started the conversation, then about a week later we were on a flight to Nashville to meet Al Gore to brainstorm what ideas and points we could bring to this sequel.

DV: I think what really struck me about the film is that it isn’t just a film about numbers and facts about climate change but we get to see this world leader in former Vice President Al Gore who actually gives a damn about the world around him and in this day and age it was surprisingly refreshing.

BC: (Laughs) That really strikes at the core of what we wanted to do with the film.  We wanted to do something quite different then the first film which really is what a sequel demands.  I mean in 2006; the world was really waking up to global warming and people were still learning how to talk about the climate crisis which the first film gave birth to so we didn’t really feel like that was something that we needed to rehash.  We felt that in order to advance the conversation we had to set out to win hearts and minds and at this point in our cultural history, certainly in the United States at the very least we are hoping to be able to do that with the incredible and innovative leadership that we have now with Al Gore.

DV: How have the advance in shooting technology from ten years ago to now made creating a film like this a much different experience?

BC: It certainly has changed things, I mean we have some simply stellar drone footage in the film that 10 years ago to get we would have had to hire a helicopter to try and do plus the other really big change and probably the biggest change as we saw it was the proliferation of all these user generated videos from around the world and people are using their cameras to capture historical evidence of the climate crisis as it happens with all these incredibly devastating situations that citizens of the world having been finding themselves in.  We can find so much easily accessible on YouTube, and Al (Gore) uses so many of them in his slideshows, this allowed us to reach out and try and license them because it allowed the film to have a truly global and international feel.  We didn’t have to shoot it, we just had to find it and in many ways it made the filmmaking process feel a lot more complete as we tell this story.

DV: It’s a unique balance that you have to find in the film because as much as your subject is ‘climate change’ it’s also Al Gore himself and as documentarians you never want to let your subject ‘take over’ the narrative.  How did you ultimately strike that balance?

BC: Oh yeah, and to be clear he never had any say in the filmmaking process, sure he’d get to see various cuts but that was about it.  What we really tried to do was make sure that the film had a strong character analysis and arc to it while at the same time it had to be something that served the greater good of the environment and trying to affect change in the best way that we could.  We tried to weave a narrative where there was a parallel between the trajectory of the life of Al Gore alongside the trajectory of the climate crisis.  He obviously had this horrendous event that happened to him during the 2000 election where he did win the popular vote but he wasn’t allowed to take office but he rose up out of the ashes of that and built this whole new career for himself which now ten years later affords him the ability to be able to move around the world and speak across disciplines to politicians, educators, business leaders, citizens and more in order to really try and affect change.  We really saw the environment and the climate crisis as this parallel trying to create ashes out of our very planet but we do now at least have these solutions in place to be able to try and pull ourselves out of it all.  We really tried to give equal weight to both ideas in the film.

DV: Do you think that’s why the push back on this film from climate deniers and more hasn’t nearly been as vociferous as it was on the first film?

BC: Well there’s definitely been SOME push back! (Laughs) I think that in 2006 it really hadn’t been that long after the election and there had been a lot of blow back against Al Gore himself personally.  But now he’s older and his personal legacy is stronger without a doubt and really if you just look at the statistics about 80% of the population of the United States believes in reality of manmade global warming and now it just isn’t something that people can fight against as vociferously as they did with the first film.  While there are certain powers that be that want to see things like oil and coal reign supreme in our economy there really is a shift now towards renewable energy sources and understanding that renewable energy is now an economic reality for this country and the entire world.  I think that more and more people to own that and finally see that.

DV: We obviously live in an era where there is such a glut of content and so many worthy causes to deal with.  Aside from the obvious example of watching An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth To Power how do you ultimately recommend people educate themselves on the issues surrounding global warming?

BC: Well you know, Participant Media has just put out an incredible curriculum that accompanies the film and at aninconvenientsequel.com there’s tons of information including a 10 minute version of Al Gore’s slideshow that you can download and learn how to present to people in an effort to win the conversation with people who don’t know all the facts about the climate crisis or renewable energy.  There’s also Climate Reality which is the organization that Al Gore started that has tons of information online and then you can sign up for the actual training that which is such an incredible way to educate yourself about the movement and become a warrior for change.

DV: The film really does serve as a reminder that the knowledge and the education for this issue is out there we just have to go out and get it.

BC: Absolutely because at the end of the day education really is king.  Education is the only way to win the conversation on climate change, you have to know the facts and you have to know how to argue those facts in a way that won’t alienate people but instead draw them into the discussion in a positive way.

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth To Power is now available on DVD, Blu-Ray and all major on demand platforms now.

This post was written by
David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like Examiner.com, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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