January 26, 2017
An Inconvenient Sequel Kicked Off Sundance Film Festival
By Lindsey Bahr
AP Film Writer
Park City, UT (AP) - Ten years after the watershed environmental documentary ``An Inconvenient Truth’’ debuted, climate change is as dire as ever and yet the solutions are right in front of us, say directors Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk, whose film ``An Inconvenient Sequel’’ kicked off the Sundance Film Festival on last Thursday.
The film, which follows former Vice President Al Gore on his continued quest to educate and inform the public and world leaders on climate change, is the first in a series of 14 environmentally focused documentaries scheduled to play at the annual film festival in their newly anointed ``New Climate’’ section. The films include looks at coral (“Chasing Coral’’), the Mexico City sewer system (“The Diver’’), Greenland’s ice sheet (“Melting Ice’’), and the industry of big-game hunting (“Trophy’’).
Sundance founder and longtime environmentalist Robert Redford said in a statement that ``independent perspectives are adding the depth and dimension needed for us to find common ground and real solutions.’’
It’s fitting then that the festival begins with a sobering look at just what has happened since ``An Inconvenient Truth’’ helped made climate change part of the popular consciousness. That film, directed by Davis Guggenheim, won the Academy Award for best documentary feature (Guggenheim’s role in the new film is as executive producer).
``It’s more overwhelming and more horrible and bleak than you ever thought, but also you realize that we’re closer than ever to a turning point where things can really change.
Al Gore in An Inconvenient Sequel
It’s really intense,’’ Shenk said recently. ``People have gotten used to and almost numb to the climate crisis and this feeling of, `What can we do?’ This film will elucidate both what has happened and what is possible.’’
That the film is premiering the day before Donald Trump, who has dismissed climate change as a hoax, assumes the presidency is not lost on the filmmakers, who call this moment ``a cold shower.’’ And yet they’re still hopeful.
``We’re at a very different place in terms of the solutions now,’’ Cohen said. ``It is kind of an exciting time from Al Gore’s perspective, not only to put the dire message out but to offer to people solutions.’’
Filmmaker Marina Zenovich also notes the poignant and urgent political moment in which these films are debuting. Her film, called ``Water and Power: A California Heist,’’ has been described as ```Chinatown’ the documentary.’’
``We didn’t time this, but this is how it happened,’’ Zenovich said. ``We have this valuable, precious resource that is like gold, it’s like a treasure and it’s being privatized and commodified and it’s kind of like the time has come for us to all come together and pay attention to it.’’
While urgency looms in the New Climate section and documentaries on subjects like Syria and domestic police practices fill out the schedule, festival interest might rest elsewhere, according to Tatiana Siegel, a senior film writer for The Hollywood Reporter.
``It’s interesting because a lot of the docs are very issue oriented,’’ Siegel said. ``But when you talk to buyers, the ones that they’re most interested in are a little bit more escapist.’’
Sundance has launched films like ``Whiplash,’’ ``Beasts of the Southern Wild,’’ and ``Manchester by the Sea’’ in recent years. Buzzy titles premiering over the two weeks include the Gulf War drama ``The Yellow Birds,’’ starring Jennifer Aniston and future Han Solo, Alden Ehrenreich; director Dee Rees’ WWII-era racial drama ``Mudbound’’ with Mary J. Blige and Carey Mulligan; and ``The Incredible Jessica James’’ starring comedian Jessica Williams. Also hotly anticipated is the Roxane Shante biopic ``Roxanne Roxanne’’ starring Nia Long and ``Moonlight’s’’ Mahershala Ali.
There’s also films like ``78/52,’’ which dissects the shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s ``Psycho,’’ the 235-minute long Grateful Dead documentary ``Long Strange Trip,’’ which recently sold to Amazon, and ``Step,’’ about a group of high school girls in inner-city Baltimore.
``Step’’ director Amanda Lipitz, also a Broadway producer, had been making shorts about kids from her hometown of Baltimore who were the first in their family to go to college when she stumbled upon stepping, a style of dancing punctuated by hand claps and foot stomps popularized by black fraternities and sororities, through a group of girls she’d been documenting.
``They were doing this handclap thing and I said, `What are you doing?’ and they said, `We’re stepping! You’ve got to come, you’ve got to film this step team,’’’ she said. ``I went and brought cameras and walked in to the gym and my heart stopped beating and I thought, `Oh my God, this is what happens in a great musical! When characters can’t speak anymore so they sing to express their hopes and their dreams.’ That’s what these girls were doing with step.’’
The Sundance Film Festival runs through January 29.
Girls Who Code Closing Gender Gap In Computer Science
By Jillian Ward - The World
Coos Bay, OR (AP) - It’s time to close the gender gap. One of the largest gaps is in one of the most high-demand and well-paid careers: computer science. Girls Who Code is a club dedicated to evening out the playing field and now it is coming to Coos Bay.
``Currently women pose only 18 percent of the computer science field,’’ said Cayce Hill, youth liaison for Southwestern Oregon Workforce Investment Board, and also a senior at Marshfield High School. ``By 2020 there will be 1.4 million job openings and women will only fill 3 percent of that demand. That’s worse than it was in the 1980s, and that gap is growing larger.’’
SOWIB picked up the program to bring it here after program manager Kyle Stevens saw a presentation. It was something he knew needed to be local, reported The World (http://bit.ly/2iKxhfY).
``The closest Girls Who Code club to us was in Newport,’’ Stevens said. ``That’s just too far away, and we have youth here who would definitely benefit from it.’’
The target number for attendees is 20, and so far almost 15 have signed up.
To raise money for the club to get started, Hill initially wrote grants, which has brought in $5,000 from the Jordan Cove Energy Project and $750 from Walmart.
``We have several thousands of dollars in grants currently pending,’’ he added. ``Being involved in this feels good because it’s difficult to get educational programs here. Some say there’s not a large enough population to sustain it, but we think we should be giving opportunities to our youth to make sure everyone has an equal shot.’’
The Girls Who Code club has identified a high interest in computer science coding in girls between 6th and 8th grades, but that the interest drops when they reach high school.
``We want to educate them at that early age so they can stay interested and close the gender gap,’’ Hill said. ``Being a boy and involved in this project has been interesting, but I think it’s important for there to be diversity in every aspect of life. We get stronger from diversity.’’
The first meeting was Jan. 17 in Coos Bay.
Leading the weekly classes, which will last until June, is Samantha Buckley, the public health emergency preparedness coordinator for Coos Health and Wellness. Buckley got involved in the project because of the club’s emphasis on sisterhood and education.
``It’s important for girls to stick together and support each other,’’ she said. ``Also, every week there is a thing featuring women in the tech world. Women in general in power positions don’t get a lot of attentions unless they are beautiful, so examples of what young girls don’t typically see is great.’’
It doesn’t cost to attend the weekly meetings, and for students who can’t afford to buy a laptop, then one will be provided.
``No one who wants to be involved will be kept from participating in any way,’’ Hill said.
Another benefit for girls who attend the club, or anyone who identifies as a girl, can put it on their resume and use their coding skills to break into the industry.
``Girls Who Code also focuses on facing challenges and being brave,’’ Buckley said. ``It encourages women to think about how to solve something if the answer isn’t immediately available, which is just another cool aspect to this whole thing.’’