Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk’s “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power” had its world premiere at Sundance 2017 — the evening before Donald Trump’s inauguration. Since then, they’ve had to update their film, a follow-up to Al Gore’s 2006 Oscar-winning documentary, with the changes the new administration has made in regard to climate change.
“In many ways it was an era ago,” Shenk said in a conversation with IndieWire Editor at Large Anne Thompson following a screening at the International Documentary Association’s annual screening series. “[When] we finished the film we didn’t know what he was going to do. We heard, of course, his campaign promises…leading up to his announcement in June to leave the Paris accords, it became more and more apparent…that we really owed it to the film to update those last few minutes.”
Cohen and Shenk became involved when Participant Media brass — along with Gore — began reflecting on the 10th anniversary of the original film.
“It turned out that they had been waiting for a moment when things really felt different,” Cohen said. Because the alternative-energy industry was starting to boom, “this is a great time to report on what’s possible,” she said.
The married couple flew to Tennessee to meet Gore, and after he presented new information to them they all agreed to work together.
“We showed up on his doorstep and he really just could not have been a warmer host,” Shenk said. “We sat down and proceeded to get the 10-hour version of Al’s famous — or infamous — slideshow.”
Their film turned out far less data-driven than the original because they wanted to tell a more personal story.
“We really felt like the world had changed since then. Most Americans now know the basics of what causes global warming and they actually know more than the basics,” Shenk said.
Spending a lot of time with the former vice president over more than a year meant they learned a great deal about the “recovering” politician, as he put it.
“We found the guy who had a lot of war wounds, an immense amount of passion,” Cohen said, adding, “He wishes the needle would have moved further than it has in the last 10 years. We are in crisis. But we also found a guy who is relentlessly optimistic. …He cares a tremendous amount about this country even through it screwed him. …He’s incredibly complex. He’s riddled with all kinds of emotions but what really drives him is his passion to make change in this country and this world.”
Watch clips from the Q&A below:
“An Inconvenient Sequel” is available on streaming, On Demand, and DVD and Blu-ray.
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