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August 18-31
VOL.14 ISSUE. 26
HOME / STORY

Klein And Co.

Jorge Ignacio Castillo
Published Thursday October 1, 06:37 pm
This Changes Everything is a fascinating documentary

 This Changes Everything

Broadway Theatre (opens Saturday 10)

It’s hard not to empathize with the opening line of This Changes Everything: “I always kind of hated films about climate change… Is it really possible to be bored by the end of the world?”

A companion piece to Naomi Klein’s book of the same name, This Changes Everything approaches the subject from the thesis that climate change can be dealt with by trading our current, broken economic system for a more humane and efficient one. The documentary chronicles several ongoing battles around the world between different communities and the economic forces destroying both them and the planet as a whole for profit. The film was shot in nine countries over a five-year period.

Along with many other places, the film takes us to Beaver Lake Cree Nation in Alberta, to chronicle their legal fight to defend their land from oil sands developments. Their waterways are consistently tarnished by oil spills and BLCN has been forced to sue the governments of Canada and Alberta to protect their way of life, even though it’s supposed to be guaranteed by treaty.

This Changes Everything is set to open nationally, which is no small feat for a Canadian doc. Directed by Avi Lewis and narrated by Klein herself, the film was just named first runner-up for the TIFF People’s Choice Documentary Award. I met with Lewis in Toronto to discuss his film.

 

How hard was it to find the narrative structure for This Changes Everything?

This was an extremely challenging film to make. We conceived it as a multiplatform project — a book, a movie, and a web component — which, to our surprise and delight, became a political manifesto. It took me five years to make this film, in large part because it was tricky to find the ideas that would join together all the different stories we include.

 

One could say your approach is scholarly — you have a thesis you’re trying to prove.

From the beginning, we wanted the book to do what books do best — make an argument and marshal evidence — and the film to stir emotions and take people into the lives of those on the frontlines. Naomi pushed herself to find the one idea that would serve these stories, and turn it into the clothesline from which to hang them on: Our relationship with nature, and the 400-year-old myth that we can be nature’s master and engineer and exploit it with no consequences.

 

The cinematography, which is not always the genre’s strongest suit, is remarkable.

As someone who put down the credit card for the extra baggage charges, and the guy who helped set up the dolly in the burning sugarcane fields in the wetlands, I appreciate you saying that. I decided from the very outset that to make a suitable companion to Naomi’s book — which is about the biggest subject on Earth — it had to be a film with scope and production value, a big theatrical experience.

 

Naomi Klein being Naomi Klein, was her name an advantage or disadvantage when trying to get interviews?

Some people wouldn’t talk to us; they had their minds made up about who she was and what she stood for. But for the communities, it was a back door — they would see us as part of their struggle. We’ve always tried to be an amplifier for social movement messages and getting them into mainstream media spaces. We collaborate with the subjects, we don’t just observe them.

Interestingly, outside of Canada it was easy. The CEO of Greece’s only oil and gas company was happy to talk to us. In India, I spoke with government ministers and CEOs of coal and energy companies, no problem. In North America, the elites are more circumspect about speaking to those who may be critical. That said, I did a lot of the interviews when Naomi wasn’t there and didn’t have any trouble, even with people from the oilpatch in Alberta. I like to think they felt they would be treated fairly.

***

Lewis and Klein will be introducing This Changes Everything in person across the country — and if you’re attending the Oct. 10th screening at the Broadway, you’ll be treated to a Skype Q&A session with Lewis.


 

 THE TWITTER CONNECTION

This Changes Everything features the most wonderfully random list of executive producers for a documentary — people like Danny Glover, Seth MacFarlane, Pamela Anderson, Vivienne Westwood and Shepard Fairey (who designed the poster for the film). And also Alfonso Cuarón, a friend of both Klein and Lewis for ten years. “Alfonso made me see it was time to practice what we preached,” says Lewis, “allow the film to stand alone and detach it from the book. He was a mentor and a therapist, very generous with his time.”

The rest of the aforementioned executive producers are, mostly, Twitter fans of Klein’s. “One morning, we were having coffee and Naomi said, ‘Pamela Anderson keeps retweeting me,’” says Lewis. “As producer and director I answered, ‘I need to get in touch with her! DM her immediately!’ Turns out she’d done a great YouTube video about tanker traffic out of the coast of Vancouver. She’s lovely, has great environmental positions and helped raise money for the film.” Seth McFarlane’s participation started almost the same way, and the creator of Family Guy put Lewis and Klein in touch with an animator, provided notes and supported the film financially.

As for Shepard Fairey, Lewis says, “[He] wrote a blog post about Naomi’s book. When we asked him to be involved with the film, he requested to be an executive producer so he could talk about the work because he believed in it so much. This random list is a reflection that Naomi’s work has touched a lot of people. These folks may be famous, but they’re human beings grappling with the same very tough issues.” /Castillo 

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