Sundance: ‘An Inconvenient Sequel’ Debuts to Rapturous Response

Koury Angelo
Al Gore, flanked by husband-and-wife filmmakers Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk

"We will win," Al Gore told the audience after two standing ovations followed the screening.

Al Gore received two lengthy standing ovations as An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power made its world premiere Thursday at the Sundance Film Festival.

“Now we are undergoing a time of challenge, but we are going to prevail," said the former vice president to thunderous applause. "I'm not going to give all the evidence of why I'm so confident. Always remember that the will to act is a renewable resource.

"We will win," Gore told the crowd. "No one person can stop this movement. We want this movie to recruit others."

Sundance founder Robert Redford spoke before the film and said "the Supreme Court was not very kind to him."

As Sundance’s opening-night film, An Inconvenient Sequel kicked off the 2017 incarnation of the indie film festival, which is certain to be the most political in recent memory. The climate-change documentary made its debut 11 years after Oscar winner An Inconvenient Truth premiered in Park City and comes just hours before Donald Trump is sworn in as the 45th president.

This time around, the film offered a more hopeful message than the dire warning of the original, despite concerns that the incoming president will reverse some of the environmental gains made under the Obama administration. In the past, Trump has called the idea of manmade climate change a “hoax.”

In recent weeks, the president-elect has sent shivers through the scientific community by tapping climate change skeptic Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency and ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State.

Gore was asked by an audience member what sense he got on that elevator in Trump Tower. He said: "We will know soon enough. It's not the last conversation. A lot of people started out as climate-change denialists. Whether he will change remains to be seen."

Participant founder Jeff Skoll joined Gore and the filmmakers on stage. Participant financed both An Inconvenient Truth and the sequel.

It comes as no surprise that An Inconvenient Sequel played big in Park City, known for its environmentally minded denizens. This year, Sundance is dedicating an entire program to climate — the first time it has done so for a specific subject — featuring films on water scarcity and coral reef destruction as well as virtual reality programming that gives viewers an immersive sense of the perils of maintaining the status quo.

Directed by husband-and-wife filmmakers Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk, An Inconvenient Sequel offered a stylistic departure from Davis Guggenheim’s original that put Gore’s cautionary slideshow presentation on full display. This outing is more cinema verite, following a globetrotting Gore from Greenland to China to Paris for the 2015 United Nations Climate Conference, where the 196 attending nations agreed to reach net-zero greenhouse gasses by the end of this century, if not sooner. Gore, the documentary’s protagonist, is seen more as an agile negotiator in the sequel than the original’s professorial crusader.

Paramount released the original, which became one of the highest-grossing documentaries of all time, earning $50 million worldwide. The studio will release the sequel on July 28, coinciding with the release of Gore’s companion book from Rodale.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Gore said his talks have continued privately after a very public meeting with Trump on Dec. 5.

“He was receptive to some of what I had to say, and I appreciated that,” Gore told THR. “Candidate Trump made a number of statements and wrote a bunch of tweets that caused concern, but he also has other statements that at least give rise to the possibility that he and his team will take a fresh look at the reality of what we're facing here.”

With the festival taking place against the backdrop of Friday’s inauguration, more political fireworks are expected in the snowbound resort. On Saturday, comedian Chelsea Handler will lead a Women’s March on Main that will coincide with a much larger march in Washington. Park City participants will include Aisha Tyler, Connie Britton, Benjamin Bratt, Maria Bello, Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski and An Inconvenient Sequel executive producer Laurie David.