An Inconvenient Truth; Dir. Davis Guggenheim. 2006. 100mins.

Twelve years ago, who would’ve thought we’d ever be sitting in movie theaters getting a science lesson from Al Gore – and not falling asleep?  And yet, this is the Al Gore we could’ve seen back then had his campaign aides and the media not chosen to pass over his passion for climate change and focus instead on his hair and his lack of dramatic skills.  Let’s note the documentary’s shortcomings from the start: his lecture audiences are as adoring as any pre-screened Bush audience, and the reflections on his sister’s death from lung cancer seem intended more to imbue him with gravitas than to make any point about heeding scientific advice.  That said, what we get is a compelling scientific warning of human-caused climate change at a time in our history when the very Enlightenment seems under assault (the “debate” over evolution makes the fight against global warming seem an even more Herculean task).  The inevitable comparisons with Fahrenheit 911 are totally without merit, and seemed transparently designed to discredit the film by associating it with the far left.  Perhaps what some critics don’t care to admit is that the documentary genre has been quickly evolving unique new formats for framing issues, filling a sizeable niche left by a somnambulant press corps and out-of-touch government.  As for the Michael Crichtons and George Wills of the world, it is increasingly clear their continued mockery of this issue is all about an inability to admit error.  The film seeks to connect us in new ways to the world in which we live, as photos of the disappearing snows of Kilimanjaro, the breakup of Antarctic ice shelves the size of Rhode Island, and, of course, New Orleans, bring Gore’s slideshow charts to life.  More importantly, though, Gore’s presentation also builds a bridge to our remote past as humans, as samples of prehistoric ice give us a window into the less carbon-drenched climate of our ancestors.  The inevitable question arises: how will future generations judge our response to this mounting evidence?

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