VIFF Film Review: This Changes Everything

Photo: film.thischangeseverything.org

Photo: film.thischangeseverything.org

With a bold and provocative title like This Changes Everything, Naomi Klein (writer) and Avi Lewis (director) had most certainly piqued my interest for their new film. I was anxious to find out what this powerful agent of change was, and how it was different from what I had seen and studied before.

This Changes Everything is a collection of stories about human inequality and environmental activism. From Fort McMurray, Alberta to Sompeta, India, and around the world, we are told the compelling stories of local populations being impacted by devastatingly common industrial developments. In some cases, the people are successful in averting environmental disasters, while in others, corporate excess and the lack of governmental oversight win the day. Among the successes are the German Energiewende (energy transition), Chinese solar boom, and ongoing mine protests in Halkidiki, Greece. Through a humanistic lens, Klein and Lewis show us the power in working collectively towards common goals and the importance of standing up for human rights.

Embedded within each of these stories is the subtle notion that capitalism is a threat to the environment, and conversely, the implication that environmental protections may set limits upon economic growth. In my view, these are both interesting and worthwhile conversations to be had. Neither of these themes is explored with the robust arguments that you might need to change the hearts and minds of a diverse and informed public. For this reason, I get the sense that this film more or less preaches to a devoted audience.

The topic being explored throughout the film is the evolution of human ideals. Klein argues that in the past, man treated himself as the engineer, and Earth as the machine. She believes that humans must rekindle this relationship, reconnecting mankind and nature as one entity. There is a lot of merit to these ideas, but the film doesn’t spend the time to properly build its case.

I do not intend to trivialize the importance of these stories, but in the end, I was still left wanting and felt that the desired outcome may not have been achieved. Perhaps all the hype surrounding this novel-film combination got to me. I’m left unconvinced of Klein’s certainty in the power of these ideas. Equality for people and respect for the environment are certainly at the heart of many important changes needed in the world, but they certainly aren’t the full picture.

Overall, I think, if viewers keep their expectations in check, this movie is worth watching. Just don’t expect it to change everything.