by John

In 2006, Davis Guggenheim directed An Inconvenient Truth, a documentary chronicling former United States Vice President Al Gore's efforts to educate citizens about global warming. After making its premiere at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, it went on to become a critical and box office success, cashing in $24 million in the U.S. and $26 million at the international box office. Made with a $1.5 million budget, it is the tenth highest grossing documentary to date in the United States.

An Inconvenient Truth 

The cherry on the cake for An Inconvenient Truth is its two Oscars for Best Documentary Feature and Best Original Song for Melissa Etheridge's "I Need to Wake Up".

More than 10 years later, Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk would direct a sequel on Gore’s global efforts to persuade government leaders to invest in renewable energy, the problems he encounters and how they are addressed.

Can a documentary like An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power make people realise how climate change is interwoven into our everyday life, and what we can do to tackle some of the challenging problems?

Climate change can impact us in ways we have never imagined – the increasingly complex and important consequences can affect economy and quality of life. Extreme weather conditions like floods and droughts, diseases transmitted by animals and food, as well as decreased quality of air and water are just some of the examples. 

In the fast-moving and ever-changing society we live in, having to engage the public to increase their knowledge on environmental issues can be a difficult thing to accomplish. The masses probably won’t be interested if they had to listen to a long lecture on how climate change will make hurricanes more intense and dangerous. But if images of the serious consequences are presented to them in the form of moving visuals, emotions of fear and panic may kick in.

And that is why we have seen an increasing number of environmental documentaries in recent years.

Adam Ravetch and Sarah Robertson’s Arctic Tale (2007) appears to be the story of a mother walrus and her calf, and the life of a polar bear and her cubs, but it is really about how climate change has harshly affected life in the Arctic. Josh Fox’s Gasland (2010) brings viewers behind the scenes of the petroleum extraction industry and exposes the horrifying environmental consequences involved. Christina Clusiau and Shaul Schwarz’s Trophy (2017) explores how animal hunting and breeding has harmed Mother Nature and whether wildlife conservation is effective.

Sometimes, it takes celebrities to make people sit up and pay attention. Academy Award actor Leonardo DiCaprio is an environmental activist who supports several environmental organisations, being on the board of communities like the World Wildlife Fund, Global Green USA and International Fund for Animal Welfare. At the young age of 24, the actor set up the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation in 1998 to promote environmental awareness. He has also produced environmental documentaries The 11th Hour (2007), Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret (2015) and Before the Flood (2016).

In An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, Gore has a similar effect on viewers. The expert on climate change uses his influential power to engage people. The former politician is charismatic and the filmmakers make use of that to interweave the science, history and politics of climate change into a 99-minute film. Scenes featuring well-known figures like George W Bush, John Kerry and Vladimir Putin also help viewers to realise the currency of the state of matters.

It is also noteworthy to point out that the film culminates with the signing of the Paris Climate Agreement in 2016, where countries determine, plan and regularly report their efforts to mitigate global warming. When President Donald Trump made the decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, the filmmakers re-edited An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power to emphasise Trump’s role as an antagonist.

Perhaps, the most important people who appear in the film are the Climate Reality Leaders. These are the people viewers see Gore training. These are the people who make up Gore’s global movement to fight for a sustainable future. They are regular citizens from around the world who want to make a change and are determined to take action to solve problems brought about by the climate crisis. More information about the worldwide campaign here (

Environmental documentaries want audiences to know that there is hope, and that regardless of who we are, what job we hold or where we live, every individual has a part to play to protect Planet Earth.