January 18, 2017 / 6:47 PM / 7 months ago

From Al Gore to water politics, climate change heats up Sundance

Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, attends the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, January 18, 2017.Ruben Sprich

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - As former U.S. vice president Al Gore filmed the sequel to his environmental documentary last year, he did not expect to be dealing with a new president who has dismissed climate change as a hoax.

Gore's "An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power," premieres at the Sundance Film Festival on Thursday a day ahead of Donald Trump's inauguration as U.S. President.

The directors, Jon Shenk and Bonnie Cohen, said that while the film presents an urgency to address climate change, it is not all doom and gloom as environmentalists believe there is hope in adopting clean, renewable energy.

"I think the film will be surprisingly hopeful for people who have been bowled over by Trump's denial," Shenk said in an interview ahead of the United States’ largest independent film festival held in Park City, Utah each year.

The Gore film is the centerpiece of Sundance's first-ever 'New Climate' segment showcasing films and hosting discussions about issues ranging from water to coral reefs.

Trump has dismissed man-made climate change as a hoax and said during his campaign that he would pull the United States out of the 2015 Paris climate agreement. However in November, he said he now had an "open mind" on the 200-nation accord.

"An Inconvenient Sequel" follows Gore ten years after his Oscar-winning documentary "An Inconvenient Truth," as he educates children on climate change, visits scientists to collect data to present at forums and attends the Paris climate summit.

Shenk said the film includes Trump's victory and its potential impact on the issue.

"The climate community of environmental activists and people who are concerned about the climate are deeply concerned - of course, how can they not be?," Shenk said.

RIGHT PLACE, RIGHT TIME

On-demand streaming services have brought documentaries to a wider audience in recent years, fostering a growing appetite for a genre once regarded as the poor cousin of the entertainment industry.

At Sundance, more than ten documentaries and virtual reality experiences will explore climate change through different perspectives, from Gore's personal mission to farmers in Montana working to protect their natural resources in "Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman."

"All these films were done and banked before election day and they've arrived at the same time, so we're at the right place at the right time," Sundance festival director John Cooper said.

"Water & Power: A California Heist" looks at water wars in California, centering on towns where residents are unable to access clean drinking water but local private farms are able to tap into the state's groundwater bank.

"There's something about a film. The topic comes alive in a way and people react more to it. You can get lost in the technicalities of water, but this is a thriller and an expose," said "Water & Power" director Marina Zenovich.

In "Chasing Coral," director Jeff Orlowski captures an emotional race against time as environmentalists try, fail and then succeed in documenting coral reef deaths last year.

"How do you take climate change and make it emotional?," Orlowski said.

"How do we make science the hero, make it accessible to people who don't understand this stuff? There's such a compelling story buried within the numbers."

Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Andrew Hay

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