SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2022 REVIEW! We are on the brink of the sixth extinction. Fires in California, oil spills, weather cataclysms, carbon emissions, wars, and racism are just a few examples of the issues we’ve been facing. Folks as disparate as Al Gore, Carl Sagan, and Ursula K. LeGuin have warned us for decades, but we didn’t listen. Now is the time for immediate, drastic action, for we have little time – a dozen years, to be precise – to reverse the irreversible: a seemingly tiny change in temperature that will ultimately doom the planet.
The four young women at the center of Rachel Lears’ poignant documentary, To the End, have spent years fighting to implement the Green New Deal. This public policy calls for a 10-year national mobilization to bring down emissions, as well as address issues like racial and economic inequality and job creation. Sure, the narrative and structure feel a tad dry and conventional, rendering the film more of an informative, educational piece than a thrilling cinematic experience. It doesn’t lessen its relevance and urgency. Somber in its depiction of our crumbling world, inspiring in its portrayal of the fearless protagonists achieving tremendous feats against all odds, the film demonstrates what a long road we have ahead of us and the short amount of time we have to get even halfway there.
Lears takes us all over the nation – from Beaumont, TX to Boston, MA, from Washington, D.C. to Brooklyn, NY – following Varshini Prakash, leader of the youth climate group Sunrise Movement; representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who introduced the Green New Deal into Congress; Alexandra Rojas, Executive Director of a progressive action committee called Justice Democrats and a contributor to CNN; and policy writer Rhiana Gunn-Wright, who brings experts together to write the policy for the Green New Deal.
“…follows their struggles and successes, the rapid growth of the Green New Deal movement…”
These four determined, relentless, passionate, and relatable women are aware of the struggle and yet forge ahead. To the End diligently follows the rapid growth of the Green New Deal movement, stressing what we’re up against: not just climate change and drastic consequences, but cynicism, disbelief, ignorance, bureaucracy, pushback from both Republicans and Democrats. “Republicans are tearing the Green New Deal apart,” one of the leads states. While the documentary certainly, and understandably, leans left, it does point out some Democrats who find the plan unfeasible and expensive.
The COVID-19 pandemic, the Black Lives Movement, the economic crisis, and recent storms act as catalysts to the matter at hand. Social equality, historical/sociopolitical factors, and systemic racism are tied into environmental issues. No one can blame Lears for not portraying what we’re up against and the immense amount of work that goes into enacting change. I just couldn’t help but wish there were a bit more verve to the filmmaking itself, one that would reflect the ardent passion of its leads.
In the end, To the End is a stylistically pragmatic account of a monumental moment in human history. “If we want to try to change our future, we have to act as though the future is here,” Ocasio-Cortez says. Here’s hoping that, unlike the great public figures who have been warning us for decades, she’ll finally be heard.
To the End screened at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.