Review on ‘This Changes Everything’ – does it? ***


DSC02378AMSTERDAM – On Saturday Sep 26, I attended a very special preview screening of the climate change documentary ‘This Changes Everything’, directed by Avi Lewis and based on the 2014 best-seller book of the same name written by Naomi Klein. The movie was projected on the Coal Power Plant of Amsterdam, an amazing and to some extent controversial venue to screen the documentary on. Unfortunately, the setting did not make up for the premise of the movie. Expecting great revelations from its title, the answer appears to be somewhat unoriginal. We cannot figure out how exactly it will change everything.

After a welcoming word of Faiza Oulahsen, campaigner at Greenpeace, the movie hits it off with a statement of Naomi Klein: she always hated films about climate change, because they all show images of polar bears and melting ice. The announcement sets the tone – the viewer does not have to expect a stereotypical movie about climate change.

However, throughout the film we are taken to several places across the globe that have been adhered to in previous documentaries. We visit the so-called “sacrifice zones”, destroyed areas that take a toll for common purposes. We get to meet the people that fight for their lives, living in these zones. At Canada’s tar sands we take a look at the indigenous people’s struggle to regain what was theirs in the first place. We visit Greece, where people protest against a devastating goldmine that is said to elevate the deprived economy. We stop and see China trying to battle the fight against the polluted air breathed by its nation, caused by the Western way of development. Even though the scenes are beautiful and the stories are impressive, it remains difficult to find the ever-changing element in these scenes.

Instead, the element of change has to be found in the meta-message of the movie: climate change is the effect of a story that mankind told itself since the start of the industrial revolution. It is not the result of human nature. We believe that we can control nature because we told ourselves so, whilst the reality of climate change tells us that we can’t. Throughout the years, we enforced this narrative by the creation of capitalism. The assumptions made are interesting and novel, although addressed to marginally. The movie focuses on telling the previously heard personal stories rather than explaining the analysis.

The documentary concludes by celebrating the limits of nature that help to recreate our future. Naomi Klein states we need to stop pretending we can control nature. Instead, we need to embrace the fact that we are nature, and we need to take the chance that climate changes gives us to create a better world.

Even though its expectations of changing everything aren’t met, the Green Office VU believes this documentary is worth a shot. It shows astonishing images of human impact on climate change, and it tells personal stories of the effects of this influence in an easy and accessible way. Not revealing what exactly changes everything, we hope this critical review makes you curious on what does so, and hence you can check it out yourself!