Chris Bird guest blogs from Paris: A few weeks ago we showed Naomi Kleins’ film – ‘This Changes Everything’ at the Totnes Film Festival. The film outlines how, over the past 400 years the predominant story about us and the planet is that we can subdue and control Nature to meet our needs. Kleins’ film shows how disastrous this story has been for the planet and human well-being. After an hour or so of depressing stories about how big the problems are she begins to develop an alternative story about people fighting back, seeing themselves as part of the natural world, not separate. It’s an important story but I left the film feeling shortchanged.
Klein had spent four days in Totnes while researching for this film and her book of the same title. During her stay I asked her to make sure her next book was more positive than ‘No Logo’ or ‘Disaster Capitalism’. She promised to do so but maybe she spent so much time looking at the problems and too little enjoying the solutions that are already out there. So, for me at least, the balance of her film is still too negative.
Last night I was at the premiere of Demain in a huge cinema on the Champs Elysee. ‘Demain’ is an overwhelmingly positive film that is also beautiful, extremely powerful and empowering. Made by actor Melanie Laurent (famous for almost managing to kill Hitler in Tarantinos’ film ‘Inglourious Basterds’) and the writer and director, Cyril Dion, the film follows their journey seeking solutions to the problems of climate change and the destruction of habitat, biodiversity…and democracy. Relatively little time is spent on the problems as the film concentrates on allowing ordinary people to describe the solutions they are already working on. Urban gardens in Detroit and Todmorden, permaculture gardens in France, renewable energy systems in Germany and Denmark, cycling projects, alternative currencies, education systems that actually educate and new models of democracy in Iceland and India. Marvellous stories that really make a difference and that we can all go out and do tomorrow.
Bill Mollison, the founder of permaculture, said: “The problems we face may be extremely complex but the solutions are embarrassingly simple.” Demain shows how these simple solutions can spread like a virus. Transition started in Totnes but now there are over 1200 transition towns around the world. Incredible Edible began in Todmorden, a village of just 2,000 people, but there are now 700 projects worldwide. “All we did was plant vegetables” said Nick Green from Todmorden after the film screening – you may be able to see Nick in the picture below in a hat and dungarees standing next to Rob Hopkins.
Please go and see this film as soon as you can or visit their website to see how you can arrange a screening in your town – and don’t be put off because it’s a French film as many of the cast speak English and it’s fully sub-titled. Emilio Mula is already planning a screening of Demain for Totnes.
So what about those sparkly shoes? Well, a key part of this film is about consuming less, about recognising that we need to live within the planets means and change our perceptions of what we need to make us happy. After the premiere a group of us were invited to a celebration, a chance to meet the film-makers, some of the crowd-funders who backed them, and a few of the cast. The party was on the Champs Elysee in a gallery with a terrace looking down to the Arc de Triomphe. There were views to the Eiffel Tour, Notre Dame, Sacre Couer and many other iconic Parisian buildings. Illuminated by a million lights consuming who knows how much energy.
Inside expensive sculptures lined the walls, there was wine and canapes and fancy cakes and lots of actors in fancy clothes…and sparkly high heeled shoes. I haven’t been to a film premiere since the first screening of In Transition 1.0 at Battersea Town Hall so I’m not used to events like this – and I have to admit that I really enjoyed it!
So all this excess, exemplified by shoes that must be almost impossible to walk in, is very seductive. And that is a big problem if we need to change our patterns of living and consumption. We need to create new and sustainable ‘luxuries’ that are just as appealing as the glamour of Paris. Can we do that? If we value people and our world a lot more and the temporary satisfaction of material wealth a lot less I’m sure we can.