by director Ondi Timoner
When I was approached to direct Cool It last year, my knowledge of climate change was limited to what I'd gleaned from seeing An Inconvenient Truth and a few newspaper and magazine articles. I was the mother of a five-year-old and was worried for his generation's future on the planet. Like most of us, however, I found it overwhelming and frightening, and felt helpless to do much about it beyond buying a clean diesel car and changing to fluorescent light bulbs. And I certainly had no idea who Bjorn Lomborg was.
As I researched by reading Bjorn's books, I realized how little I actually knew, but I reminded myself that the reason I have always been attracted to documentary filmmaking was because the camera gave me a bridge into worlds I haven't explored before. With every film, I invariably learn and am profoundly changed by crossing those bridges. The circle is complete when I finish the film and get to share what I've learned with audiences in as exciting a way as I can.
In this case, I was initially tentative, wondering if I was the best person to make this film. I'm not a scientist. I'm not an economist. I'm a mother and a filmmaker, first and foremost. But on further reflection, it became clear: Who better to shed light on this issue than someone who is not steeped in the controversy? Someone not caught up in the science and politics, or the emotions of the argument. Someone who simply wants to understand the problem and get to solving it. One of us.
I felt it was time to take some of the scary rhetoric and hype out of the climate change debate and approach it in a totally rational, hopeful and positive way. I felt that that the film could be a real contribution in demanding that the problems we face, and their solutions, be presented practically, and in a way we can all understand. This had been Bjorn's mission all along and now it was mine too.
Meeting Bjorn at the Cosmic Diner in New York sealed the deal. In one five-hour meeting, I grilled him, firing one question after another. After all, this man had been accused of scientific dishonesty, and then exonerated. He was called a liar and parasite by one side, and one of the top 75 people to save the world by the other. He was the subject of heated debate. He answered every question I asked him that day so thoroughly, and with such a unique and interesting anecdote or metaphor attached. I made him break down anything complicated into its parts until it all made sense. I realized that this much-maligned and controversial individual was not only being completely, and often purposefully, misunderstood and misrepresented, but that his solutions and amazingly rational approach to global warming needed to be heard, and that I was the person to make sure they would be heard in the most objective and engaging way possible.
This was not my usual suspect. Cool It would be a socio-political film that we would shoot in a year, not only about the climate change crisis, but about how to prioritize solutions to all of the world's major problems according to a cost-benefit analysis. I was compelled to get to the bottom of why there had hardly been any progress in nearly 20 years to counteract something we have known was a real problem that we have been causing for decades. I was determined that we present concrete solutions that should not be ignored. Bjorn agreed to finish the film with a concrete plan and budget, so off we went to visit the labs of scientists, economists, children, engineers and great thinkers in the developed and developing worlds.
If you sense my passion while reading this, you have picked up on my belief that this film is an important step towards focusing us all on what can and should be done, and done now.