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Focus on climate at Sundance Film Festival

January 19, 2017

Al Gore's latest environmental film premieres at the Sundance Festival one day before climate change-denier Donald Trump is sworn in. For the first time, the festival is highlighting a single theme: the climate.

Al Gore "An Inconvenient Sequel"
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/Sundance Institute

Former US Vice President Al Gore's newest documentary, "An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power," comes at a poignant time, coinciding with the inauguration of a president that has called climate change a hoax. It premieres Thursday in Park City, Utah.

A sequel to his Oscar-winning 2006 film "An Inconvenient Truth," the new film follows Gore as he educates young people about climate change, collects data from scientists and attends the Paris climate summit in late 2015.

"I think the film will be surprisingly hopeful for people who have been bowled over by Trump's denial," one of the film's directors, Jon Shenk, told Reuters.

Trump has said he finds climate change implausible, and he has wavered on US participation in the UN's Paris Climate Agreement. Back in 2012, he called global warming a concept "created by and for the Chinese."

Gore's film is the centerpiece of a brand-new series at this year's Sundance Film Festival. "New Climate" presents 14 films and virtual reality projects, and includes discussions on a range of environmental issues.

Also included in the series are "Water & Power: A California Heist," which look at water wars in California, and "Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman," a film on Montana farmers protecting their natural resources.

Trump documentary and indie gems

Founded by actor and director Robert Redford in 1985 to support independent filmmakers, the Sundance Film Festival is showcasing 118 full-length movies from January 19-29 in Park City, Utah.

This year's festival "shows how art can engage, provoke and connect people all over the world," Redford, 80, said in a statement.

Added to the lineup just this week is a documentary looking at Trump's path to victory. "Trumped: Inside the Greatest Political Upset of All Time," produced by Showtime, promises an "incredible treasure trove of never-before-seen footage." It premieres on January 27.

While documentaries, which have grown in popularity due to the rise of streaming services, play an important role at Sundance, the festival also features a slew of international films - including Oscar hopefuls.

"A Ghost Story," directed by David Lowery and starring Golden Globe-winner Casey Affleck and double Oscar-nominee Rooney Mara, is expected to draw attention. The sparse but eerie narrative follows a figure who was once a man and returns to Earth to visit his former home.

Another one to watch for is Gillian Robespierre's "Landline," a subversive comedy about life in pre-digital New York in 1995. "'Landline' relishes in the dark humor of life's low points while basking in '90s nostalgia," writes Sundance.

Film still Axolotl Overkill by Helene Hegemann
'Axolotl Roadkill' explores adolescent desires and escapadesImage: Constantin Film

Coming of age entry from Germany

Sundance reportedly received 13,782 submissions including 4,068 feature-length films - more than half of which came from overseas. One German film made the cut: "Axolotl Roadkill" traces the life of a teenage girl in Berlin as she tests her own sexual power, pursues her adolescent desires and explores the German capital's no-holds-barred nightlife.

The work is 24-year-old Helene Hegemann's feature film debut as both screenwriter and director. She wrote the book in 2010 and it quickly became a best-seller.

Though the Sundance Film Festival aims to serve as a platform for independent productions, it has proven to be a strong nose for hits. "Manchester by the Sea," which earned Casey Affleck his Golden Globe earlier this month, was shown at Sundance last year. "Beasts of the Southern Wild," "Swiss Army Man," "The Diary of a Teenage Girl" and "Whiplash" are also among the Sundance features that have gone on to achieve critical acclaim.

kbm/cmk (Reuters, AFP)