The Race to Save the World
It’s a feat to retain a sense of optimism in the face of unrelenting adversity, but this is precisely what the grassroots-environmental activists featured in The Race to Save the World manage to do. They undertake their direct activism – which can also be called civil disobedience (or what the authorities would call criminal mischief) – with such beautifully fervent passion, that it’s strange that the documentary depicting their stories lacks any real urgency.
The film is less a call to action than a study of those who have already heard and answered the call, depicting a collection of individuals whose activism doesn’t directly overlap with the others, besides working together towards a common goal – the desire to save the world. There’s a slight contradiction (and a minor irritation) in calling a movie The Race to Save the World while focussing exclusively on American endeavours. This could have easily been contextualised by adding a few facts and figures (like the fact that the US emits the second highest amount of greenhouse gasses per capita on the planet), but there’s a total absence of tangible data, which would have also helped to establish a sense of insistence to director Joe Gantz’s film.
The exclusion of hard facts appears to be a strategic move, with the feature instead deciding to shine a light on those fighting the good fight. There’s Aji, who is suing to ensure clean air in Washington DC; Abby, who staged a sit-in to prevent potentially explosive trains carrying coal travelling through her community; Miriam, Michael Z, and Mack, who are participating in a climate march from Los Angeles to Washington DC; Michael F, who managed to deactivate a pipeline transporting oil from Canada to the US; amongst others. Of these threads, Aji (aged 17) and his brother Adonis (aged 12) are arguably the most inspirational, discussing their fears and determinations with an intelligence and maturity that would be the envy of many adults. Other motivations come across with an unfortunate degree of self-righteousness. It’s difficult not to cringe when Mack declares that “the earth is calling us to greatness.”
The considerable efforts of those involved should be celebrated – and while the message is undoubtedly virtuous – the documentary that delivers the message is a little too detached to truly resonate. That being said, anything that might inspire more people to join the race is certainly commendable.
The Race to Save the World is released digitally on demand on 22nd April 2021.
Watch the trailer for The Race to Save the World here: