An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power

A follow-up to the 2006 Academy Award-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power is a profound environmental documentary that resonates particularly well now with the current politically divisive debate over global climate change policy. Like the original, it follows former Vice President Al Gore as he sounds the alarm on the increasingly dire effects of global warming largely caused by industrial and energy production pollution. The cameras film Gore as he travels the world giving his famous slideshow about global warming to various climate leadership forums. He also refutes his critics, who say he is exaggerating what’s happening to the Earth, by outlining empirical evidence and actually traveling to Greenland to show the rapidly melting glaciers. In an especially provocative scene, his claim in the original documentary that the World Trade Center site could be flooded in the near future, a statement many critics laughed off, is unfortunately proven true when Superstorm Sandy in 2012 floods the construction site at the new World Trade Center. Much of the movie revolves around the surprisingly riveting and complicated negotiations of the landmark Paris Climate Accord in 2015. For instance, Gore personally deals with the hesitancy of the Indian government who are still relying on dirty energy sources as a result of financial constraints. Eventually, a record deal, in which 195 countries agreed to help reduce carbon emissions and stabilize global temperatures, was reached in April 2015 in Paris. Since I saw an early screening of the film, it did not include the recent decision of the Trump Administration to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord. With huge implications for the United States and the world as a whole, this dramatic development has forced the filmmakers to work on a new version of the documentary by fully re-editing the film’s cautiously optimistic conclusion about global warming. Overall, I found it to be important movie that sheds more light on the serious issues surrounding global warming and makes the new political developments much more worrisome.

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Finding Oscar

Produced by Steven Spielberg, Finding Oscar is a riveting and shocking documentary about one of the largest massacres during the 36 year-long Guatemalan Civil War. Under the de facto military president, an elite group of soldiers tasked with eliminating guerrilla fighters entered the small rural village Dos Erres in December 1982 allegedly to flush out the anti-government fighters supposedly hiding in the village. What unfolded was the killing of over two hundred innocent men, women, and children who were beaten to death and thrown into a local well. Only two young boys survived, and they were taken by two soldiers to become members of their family. The film follows the contemporary forensic anthropologists who went through the victim’s skeletal remains to uncover the truth that the Guatemalan military was responsible for the massacre. In hopes of gathering more details and an eyewitness account of that day, a group of activists search the world for the two surviving boys, especially a boy named Oscar who was particularly hard to find. Through the accounts of the forensic anthropologists, activists, lawyers, some of the soldiers that committed the atrocities, and surviving family members, we learn about a war that many in the United States are unaware of and the unheard of war crimes, including the estimated 200,000 dead civilians and this particularly horrific massacre. More disturbing is the fact that the United States government and President Ronald Reagan supported the Guatemalan regime and had friendly meetings with the very president who ordered the massacre around the same time. Overall, I found it to be a terrific documentary that highlights a atrociously bloody war that took place in our hemisphere yet most Americans know nothing about; this powerful film provides a much-needed history lesson about Guatemala and the questionable dealings of the United States had with the regimes during the Civil War.

Weiner

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Following the 2013 New York City mayoral candidacy of former congressman Anthony Weiner, Weiner is a superb political documentary that is at the same time funny and tragic. The film is a behind-the-scenes look at Weiner’s shot at political redemption, two years after resigning from Congress in 2011 for his infamous sexting scandal. It begins with archival footage of his promising career, especially his impassioned support for the 9/11 first responders health bill. Mostly relying on the filmmakers simply rolling the camera in a cinéma vérité style, we watch a political campaign starting from the ground up and eventually building momentum. However, an even more disastrous scandal, involving Weiner sending much more explicit images after the first revelation, proves to derail the campaign. The film unwittingly becomes a case study in crisis management. Almost comically, nothing seems to stop the nuclear meltdown that has become Anthony Weiner’s campaign. One of the more fascinating aspects of the documentary is the cringe-worthy reactions of his wife Huma Abedin, a close aide to Hillary Clinton. She becomes a sympathetic character whose marital problems are relentlessly made public. As a result, the film is at times painful to watch as Abedin is paraded in front of the cameras and Weiner continues to make things worse. The story really is stranger than fiction, and it is hard not to laugh at the absurdities of the situation, particularly with his last name. The filmmaker rightly asks Weiner why on Earth would he agree to being filmed. The movie is also about the modern media who, fairly or not, completely focused on salacious details at the detriment of the central characters. Through its fly-on-the-wall style, the documentary reminded me of the groundbreaking 1993 political documentary The War Room about Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign. Overall, I would highly recommend the film for its ability to incisively show the inner workings of a political campaign, one mired in scandal and damage control. It is able to delve into the usually mundane world of politics in a entertaining and riveting fashion.

Dark Horse

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Dark Horse is a fascinating documentary that tells the inspiring story of a group of working-class people working together to overcome adversity. In a sleepy Welsh town impoverished since the local mine’s closure, a barmaid decides to become a racing horse owner. She gathers together a horse syndicate comprised of fellow working-class townspeople and breed a scrappy horse named Dream Alliance. As true underdogs, they take on the elitist horse racing establishment that can spend millions per horse. The film effectively underscores the disparity by juxtaposing  footage of British aristocrats in their fancy hats against Dream Alliance’s down-to-earth owners with their tattoos and missing teeth. Despite their dire situations in life, the townspeople seemed happy just to have a glimmer of hope and success. As I watched the story unfold, it felt as if I was one of the owners and cheered the horse on through its ups and downs. The documentary embodies the powerful spirit of perseverance against all odds and makes you believe in humanity. As such, I would highly recommend the movie and your spirits will definitely be uplifted after watching.