This week Arkive is celebrating the US premiere of the environmental documentary Tomorrow, (Demain le Film). We’ll be featuring a guest blog each day this week, with documentary contributors discussing the global issues featured in Tomorrow.
Tomorrow’s US premier is in San Francisco this Friday, 14th April 2017. Visit the website for a full run-down and trailer.
“Without question, this is absolutely the best and most creative film on the future of humanity and the environment.” – Paul Hawken, leading environmentalist
Who are you?
My name is Rob Hopkins. I am a blogger, writer and public speaker, and the founder of Transition Movement. I started the first Transition initiative here in Totnes, Devon, UK, and also Transition Network, which supports the people in over 50 countries who are now doing Transition. I have won several awards for my work, including 2 honorary PhDs. I am also a father to four sons, a gardener, the director of New Lion Brewery, and was delighted to be one of the people featured in Tomorrow – I’m the guy with the £21 note!
What is your field of work?
I was a teacher of permaculture for years, before starting the Transition Movement in 2005. The area of my work is around communities, and the potential they have to organise and make things happen. I was struck that climate change felt like such a vast, existential crisis and that people were overwhelmed, and had given all their power over to leaders to sort it out. But I also saw that there was so much that communities could do. They could move faster, they were nimbler, they could be more ambitious. And that the projects they were doing were building connection, were bringing people together, and were reviving local economies. So for me, Transition is a movement of communities reimagining and rebuilding our world, and they are doing so at a time that desperately needs that.
Could you describe your connection with Tomorrow?
I had met Cyril Dion once before, but in 2014 he and Melanie came to Totnes to interview me for the film. I hadn’t heard of her before although, as her crew pointed out, in France she is very famous! So they filmed an interview and then went home, and I didn’t hear anything for about a year and a half. Then in December 2015, I was invited to the premiere in Paris, and it blew me away. I thought it was amazing – it made me cry at least six times. It was such an honour to see myself in it alongside other such amazing people. Its rise and impact in France, Belgium and elsewhere has been stunning to see. In France, in particular, it has been a phenomenon. When I go there now, teenagers ask me for selfies on the Metro in Paris!
Being part of it has changed my life, but more importantly, it has changed the lives of so many of those who have seen it. I went to several screenings in Paris in December 2015 and was amazed at how many young people there were. I asked them “why do you like it so much?” They told me that after the terror attacks in Paris the month before, “we don’t know what our story is anymore. Now we have our story”. That’s very powerful.
Mass coral bleaching events are happening around the world due to climate change
What are the problems facing your field of work, from an environmental perspective?
We are in a race against time, a race that we are losing. We are now seeing a concerted war on climate science, a rolling back of climate action and the deletion of large sections of the evidence base. At the same time we are seeing warming accelerate, Arctic ice in its death throes, all the impacts scientists predicted coming to pass. We also see our communities becoming more isolated from each other, an “epidemic of loneliness”, and communities economically left behind. Tomorrow is a film that says “it doesn’t have to be like that. We can do better than that”. I can’t think of any film that has more to say about what’s happening in the US right now, and more potential to inspire people with a new, more inspiring and appropriate story.
Do you have any suggested solutions to the problems Tomorrow confronts?
This film is full of solutions. One of the things that is radical about this film is that it turns what I call the ‘happy chapter’ convention on its head. That’s the convention where films about green issues are relentlessly miserable until the last 5 minutes when they say “ah, but we could do this”. Tomorrow gets the problems out of the way in the first 2 minutes, then they give you 3 minutes to let that settle, and then they head off to find solutions. No-one really did that before, and I notice that quite a few people are doing so since.
For me, the future needs to be more local. Climate change makes a nonsense of moving goods around the world in order to boost economic growth figures. The UK exports to Germany every year the same amount of potatoes as it imports from Germany. Let’s just email each other the recipes and make our local economies more resilient. Our local economies need to move away from their current move towards monoculture, fewer and fewer more and more powerful businesses, to a complex ecosystem of businesses, rooted in place and in the community. That’s a solution that’s better for public health, community cohesion and for economic resilience, and it is growing now, in many places.
What are your personal feelings on the importance of conveying Tomorrow’s message, and what impact do you hope for it to have upon the audience?
I have seen, time and again, the impact this film has on people. It gives them hope. It gives them workable, tried-and-tested solutions they can draw on. It’s a film about climate change they leave feeling great. It touches people deeply. The music is great. It’s funny. I think everyone should see it. Increasingly in the media, it seems like there is a general consensus that the future is going to be awful. This film confronts that head-on, asking the questions, ‘why?’ and ‘who says?’. The future could still be amazing, but we need ideas, imagination and inspiration – all of which Tomorrow provides in huge doses.
What has been most powerful about Tomorrow in France and Belgium is how it has reached a whole new audience, beyond ‘the usual suspects’ and into mainstream society. No ‘green’ film ever did that before in the same way. I hope people who see it feel fired with possibilities. Anything could happen from here. In creating this film, Cyril and Melanie have created something extraordinary, something really powerful. In the US now, people are being told that addressing climate change means fewer jobs, so we have to not address it. This film powerfully and beautifully reveals that as the nonsense it is, arguing for more holistic approach. It shows that you can’t tackle the food system without also taking on the economic system, and you can’t do that without also looking at energy and transport, and all of that is going to struggle unless we also look afresh at how we educate our kids. It’s common sense. That joined-up, holistic approach is one that people understand even if politicians don’t. There can be no more important movie being release in the US right now.
Just that I am so pleased that Under the Milky Way have decided to distribute this film. I hope it continues to have a huge impact around the world. I think people will love it.
We’d like to thank Rob for his words and speaking to us. If you’d like to know more about Rob’s work you can visit his blog, the Transition Network website or find him on Twitter.