There is no excuse to wait till tomorrow. The documentary Tomorrow presents constructive solutions to the world’s environmental issues.

Aleksander Huser
Aleksander Huser is a freelance Norwegian film critic and journalist. He holds an MA in Film Studies from the University of Oslo, as well as a Writer-Director Diploma from the London Film Academy.

When someone says they will do it tomorrow, it often implies procrastination. The French documentary Tomorrow is about the opposite; how we can actually start to create a better tomorrow – tangible measures to literally help save the world.

Directors: Cyril Dion and Mélanie Laurent

Gloomy predictions. The basis for the film is a research report published in the scientific publication Nature in June 2012. This report claimed that the next generation will grow up in a world where food, water and oil will be scarce, and where even a portion of humankind will be extinct by year 2100. And, as the film points out, we humans are far better at telling stories about the end of the world, whether caused by climate change, nuclear bombs or zombie virus, than actually coming up with narratives for what we can actually do to prevent our existence from going under. This is what spurred the team behind Tomorrow to create a documentary which outlines potential solutions to the seeming overwhelming problems facing the Earth. The resulting film is both catchy and uplifting, and a surprise hit in its native cinemas – where it received the César-prize for best documentary. In November, it was also the opening film at the United Nations’ climate conference, with Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon stating that it ought to be compulsory education for all the world’s political leaders. It is unlikely that they will all make it there, but this month it is possible to catch the film at the Bergen International Film Festival.

Collective labour. Saving the world cannot be done alone, so it seems appropriate that Tomorrow appears to have been created by the aforementioned group of six friends, all connected to the film industry, as a collective, and that the film is partly financed through «crowd funding». Cyril Dion and actress Mélanie Laurent are listed as the directors, but the rest of the team also pop up in front of the camera. In the film, the whole group visits various societies and environments across ten different countries, which have all, in different manners, initiated successful ways of tackling the outlined challenges. The film is furthermore split into thematic chapters such as farming, energy, economy, democracy and education.

Urbane farming. The first chapter focuses on, among other things, so-called urban farming, citing Detroit as an example. Following the collapse of its motoring industry, only the poorest remained in the US city, where they, after some time, had ambitions to become self-sufficient on food. A range of greenhouses and green areas were created in the middle of the city, with the citizens themselves growing the food – in line with an over-populated world where there will be a dependency on local supplies, where the majority will reside in cities and fuel will be a scarcity.

It is perhaps fitting that our own small country does not feature in the film; all the while we desperately cling on to our oil production, and instead spend our profits on a clean environmental conscience through climate quotes.

Todmorden, in the north of the UK, seems to have expanded these ideas even further, by introducing so-called «propaganda gardens» around the entire city. These gardens bear fruit, berries and vegetables which are freely available to all the 200, 000-strong city. The film makers are also visiting some smaller, self-sufficient farms, which, along with, allegedly, another 1, 5 billion farmers worldwide, do not use tractors or oil in their farming.

Slow reversal. Such micro-farming is purportedly more efficient than larger, industrial farms, and can also, in an increasingly nutritionally self-sufficient and ecologically sustainable future, be established in cities and suburbs. Rather than producing food we can access directly, without the use of environmentally harmful fossil fuels and fertilisers, the more industrial part of farming is focusing on producing animal feed to keep up our, in parts, unhealthy and environmentally-destructive meat consumption. According to people who feature in the film, reversing this is very slow, because of the many – not least in the oil industry – with a vested financial interest in maintaining today’s food industrial system.

Tomorrow is, in a very positive way, an inspiring film.

Local examples. In the film, Dino, Laurent and the other also visit the Nordics, using Copenhagen as an example of a city which invests in green energy sources, and which in a few years will be energy self-sufficient. Iceland is also hailed due to its environmentally-friendly energy solutions, but also as an example of practical people power. The inhabitants overturned its government after it led the country into a financial crisis. It is perhaps fitting that our own small country does not featured in the film; all the while we desperately cling to our oil production, and instead spend our profits on a clean environmental conscience through climate quotes.

Local currency. Tomorrow features additional thought-provoking and constructive solutions suggestions – one such example is the use of local currency to ensure that money swallowed up by international companies and global banks (In London’s Brixton area, David Bowie features on its local 10-pound note – how cool is that?). It does not matter too much that the film loses some of its impetus towards the end, as the chapters on democracy and education (the latter uses the Finnish school system as example) do not contain as revolutionary thoughts as the previous ones – although the idea on democracy through random selection is an interesting one. The documentary form is almost too playful and quirky, with its repetition of the film makers walking in an Abbey Road-esque manner and their somewhat contrived soundtrack dialogues. However, these features nonetheless create a certain charm and cheerfulness which most likely played a part in the film’s wide appeal, which is essential. Tomorrow is very positively an inspiring film (and no, «inspiring» does not necessarily equate positive), with its many tangible suggestions which we should implement today already. Tomorrow could suddenly be too late.

 


-