‘Tomorrow’ (‘Demain’): Film Review

Demain - H 2015
Courtesy of Mars Distribution
An informative glimpse at various ways to reverse the path of global decline.

French star Melanie Laurent co-directs a documentary on activism around the world.

A globetrotting documentary that’s more focused on solutions than problems, Tomorrow (Demain) provides a comprehensive look at ways in which activists, organizers and everyday citizens are trying to make the world a better, greener, more sustainable place. Co-directed by ecological rights advocate Cyril Dion and actress-filmmaker Melanie Laurent (Inglourious Basterds, Now You See Me), whose engagement here goes beyond that of a mere vanity project, this playfully made exposé should be required viewing for anyone wondering what they could do to pitch in and save the planet.

Released theatrically in France just as 195 countries joined together to sign the landmark Paris Climate Accord, Tomorrow offers up an alternative to such big-nation (and some would say inadequate) proposals, revealing how farmers, teachers, researchers and small-town participants have found their own methods for combating issues like global warming, food shortage and general economic meltdown. While it often preaches to the choir, even those who deny that such catastrophes are on the horizon could be convinced by some of the ideas on display here, allowing the film to reach more viewers at fests and on various online platforms.

Beginning with an extremely grim conclusion — reached by Stanford biologist Elizabeth Hadly and Berkeley paleontologist Anthony Barknovsky, who originally published their findings in the review Nature — the doc explains how, with rising temperatures and populations, the planet may be on the verge of a mass extinction cycle unseen since the last ice age. Laurent and her crew then take off on a multinational voyage to depict those people trying to stave off the apocalypse, concentrating on matters such as agriculture, energy, economics and education.

They travel everywhere from Detroit, where urban farming programs have turned the dying city into a growing source of food for the local population, to Copenhagen, where nearly 70% of the energy consumed comes from non-fossil fuels, to the village of Kuttambakkan in India, where a progressive mayor introduced a form of participative democracy that allowed different castes to work together and improve the quality of life for everyone involved.

In most cases, it’s a question of communities taking power back from governments and corporations — a form of horizontal activism which, as author Jeremy Rifkin points out, may be the best way to undo the top-down policies that have set us on the fast track to destruction. One memorable example is that of the Bristol Pound, an alternative currency introduced three years ago by the mid-sized British city that allows monies spent locally to stay local, rather than being siphoned away by international banks.

The filmmaking can get a bit cutesy at times, employing an overtly upbeat soundtrack and featuring throwaway scenes where we see Laurent trekking to a new destination with her crew of unshaven Frenchies, all of them wearing the same pair of Ray-Bans. But there’s no denying the value of such an enterprise, and, given the onslaught of bad news that’s been hitting the world this year, it’s nice to see that some people are taking matters into their own hands, dishing out vibes both positive and worthwhile.

Production companies: Move Movie, France 2 Cinema, Mars Films, Mely Productions
Directors: Melanie Laurent, Cyril Dion
Producer: Bruno Levy
Director of photography: Alexandre Leglise
Editor: Sandie Bompar
Composer: Fredrika Stahl

In French, English, Hindi
Not rated, 118 minutes