After reviewing the series of quality environmentally-themed documentaries that have been appearing on Rialto Channel over the past few weeks I have to say: it’s a popular subject right now. And with good reason. With all the deniers and corporates still waging war against environmental reforms, there probably can’t be too many of these films being made, so bring it on.
It is Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker Charles Ferguson’s (INSIDE JOB, NO END IN SIGHT) turn to point his lens at the worldwide climate change challenges in tonight’s film, TIME TO CHOOSE. It treads some familiar ground but also offers new insights that make the sometimes-info heavy film well worth the time spent on the couch.
(Pictured Above: Filmmaker Charles Ferguson and Musician Michael Stipe at the New York Screening of TIME TO CHOOSE.)
I was interested to read that Ferguson has a background in academia and also technology, and that in 1996 he became an Internet multi-millionaire when he sold his web development company to Microsoft. This means that he works with a freedom of economy (BIG budgets) that most documentary making teams don’t have, and he can talk about whatever he damn well pleases! And talk he does… His academic background means that at times tonight’s film does feel a little like a lecture, but it’s a vital one.
Ferguson narrows his focus in the film on the main crises he feels are facing Planet Earth right now, as in: coal and oil production, urban sprawl, deforestation, and the industrialisation of agriculture. It could all get a bit tough going if it wasn’t for the absolutely superb cinematography, which is one of the things that I’m assuming the director’s bigger budget allows. Ferguson filmed all over the world, and the breathtaking natural vistas poignantly underscore what we all have to lose if we choose to ignore what is going on out there. On the flipside, the director and his rather brave crew also managed to get right in the middle of destroyed forests and polluted cities, even filming without permits in China and Indonesia, two of the countries responsible for our world’s worst pollution levels.
Featuring narration by award-winning actor Oscar Isaac, TIME TO CHOOSE leaves audiences understanding not only what is wrong, but also what can to be done to fix the global threat. Ferguson explores the scope of the climate change crisis and examines the power of solutions already available through the stories of some inspiring individuals. Californian Governor Jerry Brown gets top marks from Ferguson – and me! - for encouraging solar and wind power and eliminating most fossil fuel production, whilst one innovative company in China has introduced wind power on an impressively large scale. Solar power has made major headway in Kenya, whilst in Curtiba, Brazil, former Mayor Jaime Lerner pioneered a Bus Rapid Transit system, since copied in 180 other cities (including, to a limited extent, Los Angeles) that is as efficient as a subway and 50 times less expensive. Better public transport means fewer cars on the road, a lesson that Auckland could take a few key points from.
Indeed one of the film’s true strengths is that it is not all doom and gloom, as Ferguson points out these number of positive steps that have been taken in many countries to implement change, even cautiously suggesting that it will not be impossible to reverse the environmental crisis.
One of the low points on the film for me was actually Oscar Isaac’s delivery, which really surprised me! He is a more than competent actor, but it appears that voice over work requires a very different set of skills that he hasn’t quite nailed yet. However, at 99 minutes and packed with beautiful imagery and positive energy, TIME TO CHOOSE is a more than decent watch.
TIME TO CHOOSE premieres on Thursday 22 June on Rialto Channel.
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