Monday, April 4, 2016

CIFF: "Gasland" Director Josh Fox's New Film Takes on the World

Josh Fox's How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can't Change shows April 4 at 7:10 p.m. Photo courtesy of film

Director Josh Fox's thought-provoking 2010 film Gasland appeared just as energy companies were making hydraulic fracturing a household phrase in the United States. It was a damning indictment of the process and was nominated for an Academy Award. Gasland 2 followed in 2014, looking even further into the industry and its potentially devastating long-term effects.

How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can't Change is different than those films and also a logical progression from them. It seems borne of Fox's realization that despite the notoriety Gasland achieved, hydraulic fracturing has only increased across the globe. He arrives at the conclusion that one man can do little to stop the march of huge corporations, rampant consumption and the consequences they bring. At one point he asks, "Can a person stop a wave?" and it's clear the question weighs heavy on his mind. 

Fox's film starts at his family's home in New York state, where predatory beetles are wiping out a beloved hemlock tree. It then moves on to the devastation brought by Hurricane Sandy. It's explained that both are due to global warming, and Fox skillfully lays out his frightening argument that although the Earth will survive, the living things that call it home will forever be changed. Temperatures will rise. Animal species will die off. Coastal communities will ultimately be underwater. There is nothing we can do to stop it, he asserts. It's too late. 

It's all enough to make you want to watch some cat videos on YouTube, and Fox playfully obliges with a few quick clips after laying out his dire diagnosis. But the problem gnaws at him. Despite his success as a journalist and an activist, Fox feels hopeless. He wants to give up. 

But that's when How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can't Change switches gears. It's that moment of hopelessness that prompts Fox to set out to find those who are fighting back in the face of such long odds. He finds hope in a smog-filled Beijing where the city's 20 million residents can't open their windows and many check the day's particulate-matter report on their smartphones like it's the weather. He travels into the Amazon rain forest with those who are cleaning up oil spills by hand — one bucket at a time. 

In one of the film's most poignant segments, the filmmaker joins protesters who are trying to block an Australian coal freighter the size of the Empire State Building. Leading the charge are representatives of small Pacific islands that are slowly being swallowed by rising waters caused by global warming. They paddle out to meet the freighter in hand-carved, traditional wooden boats. 

In each of these stories, the message is clear: Our humanity is most apparent when we stand together. It's not that the people Fox encounters around the world have no choice but to fight back in the face of long odds, it's that they are confidently making one to do so. 

How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can't Change will show again April 4 at 7:10 p.m. For more information and a full schedule of Cleveland International Film Festival films, visit clevelandfilm.org.

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