We Found The Next Great Environmental Documentary
Equal parts educational and entertaining, Happening, premiering on HBO tomorrow, is the next great environmental documentary. Told from the perspective of filmmaker James Redford, it approaches the renewable energy revolution in a way that is easy to understand, inspiring, and humorous all at once.
The hourlong film follows Redford, son of acclaimed actor Robert Redford and founder of The Redford Center, as he learns about the impossibly rich world of renewables. He positions himself as a newbie in the beginning of the film, which gives the audience the opportunity to learn and explore alongside him.
Redford's journey leads him from his own power utility in California all the way to Buffalo, New York, which will soon house one of the largest clean energy farms in the country. Along the way, he talks with the VP of environmental policy for Apple, muses over the Navy's new line of fleets that runs on biofuel, and sits in on an emotional plea for fair solar power policy in Nevada. More serious moments are offset by playful snippets of Redford's daily attempts to live a little greener in light of all he has learned.
The most memorable characters from the film are the politicians working to introduce renewable energy in their communities. Their dedication across party lines instills hope that a greener country isn't so far away. Take Mayor Dale Ross, a Republican who fought to make Georgetown, Texas, one of the first cities to be powered by 100 percent renewable energy.
"If you make a decision based on facts, it will be a good decision. We'll run out of coal before we run out of wind and sun," Ross said in a panel following the film's NYC premiere. "This is the right thing to do. When you make the economic choice, you also make the environmentally friendly one, it turns out."
"If we don't have people in legislative bodies making changes, we'll make the same mistakes over and over," added Senator Patricia Spearman, a Democrat from Nevada who is working to make her state a clean energy powerhouse.
The film aims to be a beacon of hope in a climate discourse that is often gloomy, and it succeeds. As Ross puts it, "We're at a tipping point right now with renewable energy—and we're going to win."