Documentary Review: ‘This Changes Everything’

Review by Ryan Unger

Climate change is a topic that is getting more attention with every natural disaster that affects the world. After watching This Changes Everything, you can’t help but fear for the future of our planet. The term “out of sight, out of mind” stands out; when people aren’t affected directly by climate change, they tend to forget that it’s happening. This Changes Everything gives viewers a front row look into the dangers and devastation that’s occurring in communities not much different than our own.

The movie focuses on several communities around the world and how climate change has taken hold of their livelihood. It uses news clips, interviews with experts and candid footage of actual community residents living in fear of water shortages, oil spills and air pollution. One of the most interesting and heartbreaking stories is that of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation in Alberta Canada; they are a group of Native Americans whose land is being threatened by oil spills due to fossil fuel drilling. The residents are furious that big corporations are stripping them of land and using it to dig for oil, and the corporations don’t seem to care; they are after the pursuit of wealth and, as far as they are concerned, nature is standing in the way. The residents of Beaver Lake Cree Nation launched a lawsuit against the Canadian government claiming industrialization is making traditional life impossible.

Another area the movie visits is Andrha Pradesh, India where a village is in turmoil because the government is letting a big corporation build an industrial coal-based power plant. The villagers are terrified of what might happen to their food and water supply if the plans go forth. An ex-government official tells us private investors are often encouraged to build power plants; the government will offer them incentives such as tax breaks, land and power subsidies and tax holidays. The people of Andrha Pradesh held a peaceful protest against the construction, which turned violent; they clashed with police forces, two villagers were killed in gunfire and the permission to build the plant was revoked shortly after. It was considered a win, but tragically at the expense of two innocent protestors.

The film visits several other locations, but not all are struggling to cope. We learn 30% of Germany’s energy comes from renewable resources, and they have significantly less toxic emissions in their air. The citizens successfully fought against power plants and took back their electricity grid from corporations. Unfortunately, the only model of growth for most of the world seems to be the Western model, a throw away culture that keeps sucking up and sacrificing more and more of the world.

The director, Avi Lewis, crafts a compelling documentary that shows the ugly side of the pursuit of double digit growth. Filmed over 211 days in nine countries, viewers are shown different perspectives of climate change. The film is narrated by Naomi Klein, who wrote the non-fiction bestseller this movie was an inspiration for. She paints a haunting picture of what the future may look like if we change our way of thinking. The Earth is not a “beast we have to break, and then force it do our bidding.” We need to respect what the Earth provides us with, and give back when we can. The question Ms. Klein leaves the audience with is this: What if global warming isn’t a crisis, but the best chance we’re going to get to build a better world? If the answer is “yes,” then that changes everything.

NYC: Opening at the IFC Center October 2nd
LA: Opening at the Sundance Sunset October 16th
Availabel on iTunes on October 20th

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