TRUE DEFINITION OF A REVOLUTION: It is imperative to rouse people to take control of the issue themselves – if we want Earth to survive, says Carl-A. Fechner.
German director Carl-A. Fechner is known for his environmental documentaries. His latest, Power to Change, recently saw its British premiere at London’s Raindance film festival. The film is a follow-up of sorts to his 2010 documentary entitled The Fourth Revolution.
First, a question about the title of your last film, The Fourth Revolution. Why the fourth?
“We talk about three large revolutions. The first was the transition from the hunter-gatherer society to farming. The second was the industrial revolution, when manual labour was gradually substituted by machines. The third was the information revolution, where a data network created global connections. The fourth revolution is the transition to decentralised and sustainable energy, which is the topic of the film.”
The word ‘revolution’ makes you think about fighting against the establishment and for freedom. Does this also form part of the energy revolution?
“Everyone knows that we are currently facing enormous problems in the world: poverty, hunger, lack of water, and injustice. Everything is connected, and the main issue linking them, as I see it, is the question of energy. A real change can only occur when power is handed to the people, and when they are given, as we say in the new film title, ‘Power to Change’”.
The title also refers to an energy revolt. What does this entail?
“The main idea is that anyone can be a rebel. You can change your energy supplier from fossil to green technology. You can participate in the blockade of a coal mine. There is a wide spectre of opportunities to get involved and make a difference – from being a protestor and activist to just choosing to implement new, green technologies. You can see this in my new film as well, where the story is about ten–eleven people who decide that they want to make a difference. They are rebels, but they do not live on the outside of society in any way. Take, for instance, the farmer who wants to invent a new method for making biofuel from bales of hay. He has genuine enthusiasm, but is also a businessman. You don’t need to take it too far. It is possible to be part of society and be a rebel at the same time.”
The choice is ours. So, the film is partly about innovation and new technologies –the argument seems to be that the new technologies are already here, and that it is just a case of using them?
“That’s right. The technology is already here. It is all down to the choice of each individual, then the choices of the different societies, cities and in politics overall. It would be the choice of the people, and these are choices people care about and get excited for. One of the central themes is speed and mobility, so electric cars are absolutely key. We will see many more of these over the next two or three years. It seems hard for people to change their eating habits, for instance to eat less meat – something which is vital – but this will probably change too, albeit very slowly. Choosing the latest and most advanced technologies, on the other hand, comes really easy to us – so changes on that front could happen really fast. It is so attractive to change to an electric car, that once you have done so, you will never go back to a fossil driven car. And when you have an electric car, you start to think about where power actually comes from, and prefer it to not come from nuclear power or coal power plants.”
“All my films portray energy, technology, people – and love.”
So alternative technologies raise awareness in their own right?
“There is a very interesting survey which shows that 80 per cent of the population support the energy transformation. People agree that it is a good thing. People who are not able to access this technology, on the other hand, are more sceptical, statistically speaking. Those who live in the vicinity of wind turbines are more positive to clean energy. And these wind turbines generate electricity that go straight into the network. People have to be properly introduced to these kinds of changes – they must feel a connection to them.”
Will and longing. Sticking with metaphors: What is the relation between power understood as electricity, and power as the political power to act?
“I am pleased that you point out this connection. We play with both connotations in the film. But, what I really mean is the ‘power to the people’ – which starts with a will and a longing. First, you long for the ocean, then you build a sailboat. The people’s power is something that starts in the heart and then travels to the thoughts – and then perhaps carrying on with the legs and a physical movement.”
Is it about a longing to get out of the gloomy mood of powerlessness and depression? Are people moved by the hope of making our society less destructive?
“Yes, every historical age has a mood of its own. It was naturally very depressing in Germany after Second World War and into the 1960s. During the seventies and eighties, an unusually strong peace movement developed. We rallied against medium-distance missiles on German soil directed at Moscow, and against the terrible prospect of a nuclear war. We built blockades and demonstrated – and we won. We actually managed to get rid of the missiles.”
Is this strong peace movement the reason why today’s Germany is a pioneer within environmental policies, as seen in your latest film?
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