The heels vs. flats female empowerment debacle was one story that came out of this year’s Cannes Film Festival. But another debacle that garnered attention on the red carpet and on the silver screens of the world’s largest film festival was that of climate change. A few films that made Cannes’ 2015 ‘Official Selection’ were an urgent cry on the plight of the planet. Finally! Art is imitating life, and artistic films are imitating the threats to life on Earth.
Ice and Sky follows glaciologist Claude Lorius’s research with stunning Antarctic landscapes to convey the decisive and destructive role man has in global warming. Ice and Sky’s director said that it was the responsibility of film-makers to face up to the climate change crisis. To not do so “would be criminal. I think it’s a moral duty. I have children. In different times, I would have made other films. But I make fierce cinema, political cinema, cinema that has no choice.”
There were a few other environmental films shown in La Croisette’s ‘Official Selection’, including the popularly received and already hugely successful Mad Max: Fury Road, as well as Gabriel Byrne’s Louder than Bombs.
Byrne describes the climate urgency with high intensity: there is “no greater crisis” than global warming. “If we don’t get climate change under control it doesn’t really matter what else we aspire to. We need to make people aware of the real danger of annihilation.” He has even compared the current disengagement to Third Reich Germany. “This is everyone’s responsibility. It’s astonishing how sentient adults can either willingly ignore what’s happening or are ignorant of it. Resting nicely in a cocoon of apathy is such a betrayal of the people who come after us, if they come after us.” Nicely put!
I am interested as to how the arts (visual, musical, and performance) can amplify environmental causes. At Cannes actors, auteurs, and artists have conveyed the need for a climate agreement at this year’s crucial COP with stunning imagery of the environment.
Film stars have proved eager to flag the relevance of their films to the debate. Charlize Theron cautioned that the drought and deserts depicted in Mad Max: Fury Road would likely become a reality unless action was taken. “What makes [the film] even scarier is that it is something like that is not far off if we don’t pull it together.” Even actors whose movies don’t directly engage with the issue appeared to be reading from the same script. Speaking to the Guardian, the actor Gabriel Byrne, whose film Louder than Bombs is freighted with generalised anxiety about the future, said there is “no greater crisis” than global warming. “If we don’t get climate change under control it doesn’t really matter what else we aspire to. We need to make people aware of the real danger of annihilation.”