Inconvenient Truth, An

The subtext of Davis Guggenheim's highly relevant documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” is just as important as the text, in this case, a rather straightforward presentation of former Presidential candidate Al Gore's crusading campaign to raise awareness and affect change regarding the global warming issue.

Though Gore attended the Sundance Festival, where his docu world premiered, the film didn't get the attention it deserves, largely due to the section in which it was included, Spectrum. Due to lack of time, most critics favor the Premiere, Dramatic, and Documentary programs since Sundance is still the Mecca for indie features.

Even so, the documentary is bound to have long legsand hopefully impact, too– after its screenings for international critics at the Cannes Film Festival and the limited theatrical release comes May 25.

On the surface, Guggenheim' s docu just puts on record the fascinating lecture that Gore had prepared and toured with over the past several years. Not to worry: Elaborate graphics, statistics, compelling imagery, and personal commentary make the film much more than a dull academic treatise.

While watching “Inconvenient Truth,” you get the feeling that there are other agendas at work, some of which might have been conscious on Gore's part, while others not. A radical change of public image is attempted, as if Gore, in the wake of his presidential defeat, had decided to show other facets of his persona that were not exactly manifest during his two-time Vice Presidency and Presidential campaign.

It's hard to tell whether or not Gore is fully recovered from his 2000 electorate failure, a fact that's still debatable. But, overall, Gore comes across as a warm, passionate and personable man, who really cares about social and political issues with global implications.

For the docu, Gore and his producers seem to adopt a pedagogic and activist approach, hoping that their work would serves as a useful instructional tool, in various educational levels, from primary schools all the way to colleges and universities. More importantly, “Inconvenient Truth” comes across as a cautionary tale and call to arms. Gore hopes that his lecture would function as weapon of social change.

In the first part, Gore defines how global warming works on the atmosphere. But the film's most compelling part illustrates dramatically and categorically the effects of global warming, both in the short and in the long run. This is accomplished with before-and-after photos and facts, all pointing to a drastically altered universe. According to Gore, pollution has wrought more drastic changes in a few decades than Earth has witnessed since the last Ice Age, and more depressing occurrences are yet to come.

At the center of the docu is what Gore casually calls his “slide show,” an ultra-sophisticated, multi-media lecture, based on charts, graphics, cartoons, photos and other materials that chronicle Gore's 30-year-involvement with this issue. The evidence is based on a series of links and correlations (some better documented than others) among carbon emissions and health problems, insurance company costs, melting glaciers, shrinking lakes, rising sea levels, and catastrophes like Katrina.

Considering the tough (and cerebral) nature of the subject, Gore's data is concise, accessible, and in moments even humorous. State-of-the-art slides of computerized charts, photographs, archival footage, and even cartoons leaven considerably the proceedings. For its entire duration (94 minutes), “Inconvenient Truth” is always engaging and never dull or dry.

The idea that environmental protection is bad for the economy is exposed and refuted through scientific facts. According to Gore, both the technology and methodology to reverse the disastrous changes are available to us, and the economic results of dealing with the issue are positive rather than negative.

Gore presents a persuasive case for immediate action on global warming since the issue is not longer debatable. According to him, time may be running out, due to the disproportionate number of tornadoes in the Midwest, torrential flooding in Mumbai, India, and Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, all disasters that had occurred in the last year alone!

Here are some questions that the docu raises for me. First, is Gore the only official who really cares about global warming He's dpeicted as a lone and lonely crusader, indefatigably out on the road. There's extensive footage showing Gore traveling all over the world to meet with scientists, politicians, and ordinary people. Who are his supporters on this issue Is there chance for a more articulate social movement devoted to this urgent problem

Second, who are the opponents and what are their arguments To their credit, Gore, Guggenheim and the politically aware producers (Laurie David, Lawrence Bender and Scott Z. Burns) refrain from asserting that “Inconvenient Truth” is a well-balanced docu. They neither contest Gore's ideas and message, nor do they grant platform to any opposing or challenging view.

Third, would response to “Inconvenient Truth,” when it airs publicly, be sharply divided along political orientation, namely, the usual Red versus Blue States. Needless to say, for Gore, global warming is no longer a political but a moral issue of the highest order.

As noted, there's an intriguingly personal element to the docu. Though he is more effective and charming here than he was in his debates with Bush, Gore is not a naturally charismatic speaker as, say, Clinton, was. In moments, the efforts to be personable and funny are strained, but that's a minor shortcoming.

Even so, there are quiet moments, in which Gore reflects upon growing up on a ranch and his long affinity with Nature. Gore also acknowledges how he benefited from studying with university professor Roger Revelle some three decades ago.
With humor and piercing intelligence, we see the poetic and searching side of Gore, as he struggles to define his purpose in life in the aftermath of the 2000 election.

Gore traces his political activism on climate change to the near-fatal accident of his young son, in 1989, a crucial turning point in his career and life. The devastating fear of losing his child resulted in a deeper moral- existential crisis, forcing Gore to ask himself, “What should be the best way to spend my time on this earth”

The fact that we're in real danger of losing Earth as we know it, just as Gore almost lost his son, made the environment his cause. For this aspect alone, it's worth attending to the documentary, since it shows how personal tragedies and anxieties can be channeled creatively and positively toward larger issues than one's personal welfare and interests.

Davis Guggenheim

Vet filmmaker Guggenheim won the 2002 Peabody Award and the Grand Jury prize at the Full Frame Film Festival for “The First Year,” a fascinating PBS documentary about the challenging initial year of several public-school teachers. An executive-producer of “Training Day” and the director of the feature “Gossip,” Guggenheim is also the producer and director of the Emmy Award-wining HBO series “Deadwood.” Other credits include the docu “Teach” and episodes of “The Shield,” “Alias,” “24,” “NYPD,” and “ER.”