May 07, 2007

"An Inconvenient Truth." For whom?


With much trepidation I viewed "An Inconvenient Truth". Alas, my fears were unfounded since most of what I saw, was already known to me. My apprehension about being confronted with an unknown or/and harsh reality were put to rest. Strangely enough, I didn't find myself happy about that; after all I had rid myself of a fear, an apprehension had been dealt with. What was it that tugged at my conscience and wouldn't let me breathe a sigh of relief? Why couldn't I simply say, " I finally watched "An Inconvenient Truth", and I'm not all shaken up because of it." It could be due to one of two reasons: one that the content of the documentary was not 'earth shattering' as I'd expected it to be, and second, given that I was mostly familiar with the content presented, why was I then not able to simply walk away from it. What was the dilemma brewing within me?

I gave this confusion much thought, and also chewed upon my pondering for quite a while after which I came up with some findings that were rather untoward. The 'truth' of the film is 'inconvenient' only to some. Most of the world is not even aware of the truth because they have more urgent things on their minds; like their next meal! They are totally consumed by their struggle to survive. Consequently, they are oblivious of Gore's 'truth' and the need to know it; convenient or otherwise. Then there are some that recognize the 'truth', and also find it 'inconvenient'; as a result, are doing whatever little they can do to appease their environment-friendly-conscience: cleaning up a river bed, using paper bags, recycling plastic.... Needless to say, their efforts are not making the cut.

Then, there are those to whom the truth is crystal clear but not inconvenient: in fact, this truth facilitates their cause. Giant multinationals, and the influential people who sit on its management boards are more than aware of Gore's truth, and find it most convenient and profitable because it pays for their million dollar salaries. Did these people watch the film? In all likelihood they did; to be able to say they did when making pleasantries with golf buddies in a country club!

What was Al Gore's purpose while making this documentary? If it was to inform the masses, then I'm not so sure he succeeded. The ordinary man did not perhaps see his documentary because ordinary people don't pay eight odd dollars to watch graphs and tables on the big screen! Gore would have been better off making a movie along the lines of "Blood Diamond" or "The Constant Gardner" because that would have at least brought to light the cause that he's fighting for. "Blood Diamond" for example, was an all out action movie, but it did make ordinary people cognizant of the inhuman ways in which diamonds are mined in Sierra Leone. "The Constant Gardner", on the other hand, was more of an adventure cum suspense movie with some captivating photography, and that movie did inform the masses about the unethical drug trials being carried out by multinational pharmaceutical companies in poor African countries. Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" definitely had an all important message to convey, but did the message get conveyed? How far and how clear?

Why didn't Al Gore write a book instead or go on a lecture circuit to spread his message? Why did he choose film as a medium to propagate a cause so urgent and so important, and especially since the life of our planet depends on it?

15 comments:

SR said...

to start, i have to say i am dismayed by your take on the ones who are out to "appease their consciences". why do you say that their efforts "are not making the cut"? does that imply that you and i require some minimum amount of influence-exertion-power required to make a difference in things that matter to us? if you do, as seems to be the case, may i ask you if you vote? because if you do, i would say that you are engaging in pointless behavior according to your stance on this issue.

furthermore, if, by being an active environmentalist, i am just appeasing my conscience, i am sure i could say everything anyone does is done to appease their conscience in some way. essentially, i think you're being rather unfair on this point.

also, i didn't really understand your point about MNCs' board members' actions. if you could, i would like to understand what you meant.

finally (i promise this is the last bit), al gore is going on a lecture circuit; he has been lecturing nonstop on this topic since he "lost" to bush. this movie was just another medium he was trying to use to further his message. i am sorry that you thought it was an ineffective move on his part, but i feel, no, actually, i know that the movie has had rather an impact across the us, both at the grassroots level and at the federal level.

-sr

D said...

III...a lot has been said and debated on the topic of 'environment'. Conferences held at various levels and decisions like that of 'Kyoto Protocol' and so on taken, argued upon. As you said , people are more worried abt their next meal rather than pondering upon climate change. I'll say any attempt is good enuf, because GORE's audience is not someone who is sitting in a small village in Africa or India...his audience is the one who plays golf on weekends and perhaps if he can make him watch tht movies, using his political clout or of sheer celebrity status I guess it may help.

Sharique said...

sr,
Even though the questions are directed at I Me My, I would like to put my 2 cents on this- If a man of authority comes out with audacious claims, which are opposed to popular beliefs, then obviously people might think once before rejecting him. I don't think this requires examples as happening around the world conform my opinion.

nandi23 said...

I think though sometimes documentaries present a far better picture than a book can.
By making it into a movie and carrying it to the cinema, I do believe that he reached a wider audience than had he simply written a book.
The world is dying and we all are blind to it actually.
I was watching a National Geographic documentary on land fills and the discovered that things that are supposed to biodegrade are actually being preserved in landfills.
The waste from the world needs to be lessened and this message needs to be made loud and clear, unless we can of course find a way to send all our junk into space and pollute the entire univese with our garbage.

Lisa Francisco said...

Hi Chica!

How are you?! I'm doing cool...

yea this movie is already on my netflix queue...

I see your points and they are all valid.

My thoughts are that one doing an all out movie probably was difficult for him to get backing on...im assuming...a documentary feels that it is less assuming for some people...it feels more genuine...

although constant gardener and blood diamonds reached more of the masses, i don't think it educated anyone because although i believe that most people know that diamonds come from decapitated arms from african blacks in some far off mine in some african country...it doesn't register in their conscience....it does pull at their souls

people are still buying diamonds and will always do and not think twice of the consequences of it...

to them those movies were big hollywood productions that had some truth to it but entertained them...it's neither here or there...

doing a book does not reach the masses because most people like myself don't read..it takes too much time...sad....and also people are more inclined to think oh he's getting money from writing a book

although the documentary had profit, there is still some element of genuineness...

people don't like to listen to talks....and only certain people go to talks...

i think a combination would have worked even better but at the end of the day...i believe that people think....as long as it is not affecting me, i'm fine....i don't see it affecting me now...it's not real...etc....

sorry to say that but i think that's what people think...they think of the "ooo, i can get a tan in the middle of march in new york city" ...

i don't know what else it's gonna take....but the future will feel the wrath......

fyi...i know i talked too much....but everyone who knows me knows that i don't practice any religion and from the most part i'm anti-religion...but...in alot of religions...they say in their appropriate versions of their bible...that the end of the world will come by fire....doesn't that make you think of the relevance of global warming even more...eery..

starry nights said...

Id I think Gore is trying to teach and make everyone aware of the problem with global warming.I did see the movie , like you I wqas not alarmed because I had read so much about it before, but it made me more aware and I am going to do my part to recycle and use energy efficiant appliances etc.i already am but I thought I should go a bit further.We have to do our part no matter how small.I truly believe that every small effort counts. I know the larger corporations don't do enough but then I think it is in our interest that each one of us do.

EXSENO said...

Lecture circuit, I think that would have been the best thing to do. A lot of people would have gone just to meet him.

Pacze Moj said...

John Kerry wrote a book about the environment! It's the hip political thing to do, nowadays.

:P

As for An Inconvenient Truth, I think Al Gore's purpose was to make money, possibly generate some popularity, publicity for a potential White House run. The film struck me as being as much about Gore himself as about the destruction of the Earth. And it was shots of Gore staring off at tree frogs looking ever-more-sad that, for me, sunk the environmental message, not the graphs, the charts, the presentation.

That people are criticizing Gore over the film (for not using the right medium to communicate his message, for not doing enough to advance "the cause", etc.) seems to prove that An Inconvenient Truth's greatest trick was to make Gore into a green crusader.

Maybe he can play Captain Planet next...

Anonymous said...

hi..

just wanted to tell you that this is the best review i reas so far. it's a review that actually make you think of the consequences of our actions. it also tells how important is for us to act now and not ignored the inconvenient truths. i'm amazed of how our POTUS doesn't act to prevent further damages to our dear planet!

PS- we need to talk more about the subject. You can also tell that Mr. Dumbar has helped me improved my English.

-U.N

eshuneutics said...

Some might say that your views here show cynicism. I would have to be a cynic with you. The film when it came to my part of the UK only played one small independent cinema!The film toured at a time when Green had become the new political hot potato in the UK: Blair was preaching and Cameron was proclaiming. Gore's film appeared as just another piece of political self-endorsement. Lecture circuits? How truly Amercian this is. Now that Blair is on his way out (hurrah) the tv dared to devote a programme to how much he could make by being Bill Blair or Tony Clinton and doing the circuit. To the UK viewer, the circuit is as fictional as film making: why would anyone put such faith in a politician spouting? I believe Green issues are of real importance, do not think that global warming is a myth, but like you didn't feel this film was either the right medium or done in the right way.

Saurabh said...

I don't know ... but I really do believe that every little effort made will have an impact.

When doing something eco-friendly, like say - walking to the stores instead of driving there, or turning off your engine at the traffic signal, we must believe that there are thousands like us doing the same thing and these thousands together, doing a simple thing like turning off their engines while waiting at a 2 minute traffic signal will collectively make an impact.

And the truth of the matter is that there are definitely thousands of people doing the same thing.

bharath said...

Its still not clear what is the extent of global warming. What are the possible options? and how effective are they politically?

have to remind ourselves that the oil crises in the 70s didn't really change very much politically.

I find that global warming movement has been taken over by alarmists. I would like to see a sane discussion of solution, with numbers and statistics and projected impacts etc. That would be much more sobering than an Al gore presentation.

what say you?

bharath said...

and oddly enough, I will defend Gore's documentary. (though he did write a book.) He also wrote the book: Earth in a Balance in 1992.

I don't think Global warming can be brought to a human scale as it is quite inescapable in the way it affects us from rising water levels, to changing conditions that challenge flora and fauna, to intensity of hurricanes, to changing salinity of fresh water lakes.

So how will this all be captured ina movie without making it look foolish and far reaching? I have my doubts. I think a documentary, though alarmist is at least honest. I think most scientist feel that the presentation was fair (even though not necessarily accurate).

SR said...

it's nice to see such a variety of opinions in one place - it implies a true exchange of ideas.
while i agree with the more cynical people in this crowd that gore will be using this movie as a launching point for his presidential campaign (whenever he decides to jump into the mix), i still contend that he and this movie are important instruments in getting the issue of the environment into the social consciousness. so what if it is coined as the "hip political thing to do"? as long as it is a political thing at all, i am happy.
-sr

Amit said...

Keeping aside Gore's motivation and his corporate connections when he was Veep, even if a few people who saw this movie and had a change in their world-view and how human beings are impacting the planet, I think the movie has served its purpose. It can be a starting point for them to look up information and start questioning things. (I guess the cynic in me is taking a break today.)

I'm glad he made a movie and not wrote a book because I do believe that people (in general) are more likely to see a movie than read a book (with the exception of bookworms). Also, the fact that it is a documentary works in its favor because people will go in expecting some food for thought.

I also was not much surprised by the contents of the movie, and it did a good job of presenting the information pretty fairly, though I have read about some of the criticism. I personally didn't like the shots of him by the pond and all that - it came across as ponderous :D and I guess the movie-makers were struggling to balance all the statistics with some human philosophical angle so that the movie won't feel like a statistics class.

Nice blog. Hope you can add the widget for recent comments. It helps to catch on the latest conversation. :)

Cheers.