Stepping from behind the camera, documentary filmmaker James Redford invites viewers to join him on a cross-country trip to explore notable milestones in the renewable energy transformation of America.
Redford, the son of actor and environmental activist Robert Redford and an accomplished documentary director on a variety of topical issues, debuted as an on-camera host before a national audience when Happening: A Clean Energy Revolution opened recently on HBO. That attracted the serious attention of cable TV program reviewers.
“Cities like Buffalo, NY, a former manufacturing hub, are being revitalized by the clean energy revolution,” Broadway World reported in the no-nonsense style of business news reports. “There, Redford visits the site of the largest solar panel manufacturing plant in the western world, which will employ more people than the former steel plants that once sustained the community. …
“Even big business recognizes the benefits,” the Broadway World report continued. “All of Apple's U.S. facilities are now 100% renewable-powered. During a visit to an Apple data center [in Oregon], Redford learns that the company built its own solar farm in order to control its energy source.”
Summarizing another newsworthy story that Redford films in Texas, Broadway World informs its readers that “Dale Ross, the conservative mayor of Georgetown, Tex., also maintains that clean energy is cost-effective, and goes beyond partisan politics. Offered a lucrative long-term deal by wind and solar companies, Georgetown became the second U.S. city to run on 100% renewable energy. Soon, solar energy will be as affordable as, or more affordable than, fossil fuels in 47 states, according to Emily Kirsch, a CEO who funds solar startups. Kirsch stresses that the clean energy industry can ‘democratize energy production and consumption,’ and already employs more people than Google, Apple, Facebook and Twitter combined.”
A reviewer on the Bill Moyers program, documentary filmmaker Titi Yu, was impressed. In an interview with Redford, she said “it was very effective to have you in the film” talking with clean energy innovators across the nation, including civic activists in Nevada who convinced the state legislature and Republican governor to enact clean energy bills into law.
Redford replied: “I just decided to open up my own process of discovery. I decided to take everyone along on the ride. I think there is an inherent resistance to the topic of clean energy and renewable energy. It sounds kind of boring. I thought, well, maybe this might make it a little interesting. Also, I didn’t major in science or technology so I thought if I can understand this, so can everyone else.”
“You started the journey in your own home,” Yu continued, citing a scene in Redford’s house in northern California, where he decides to install solar panels on the roof. “You tracked your own power line to an ugly power plant that was across the bay from a wind farm. I thought it really brought it home how we all have a stake in this green energy revolution and there are many things we can all do, starting with ourselves.”
Redford expands on that point in his directors’ statement on the documentary website. “During the journey of making ‘happening’, I met many inspiring citizens, business leaders and politicians leading the clean energy revolution, but the most significant journey involved my own heart and mind,” he wrote. “At the start of ‘Happening’, I was feeling pretty cynical about the value of political engagement. Three years later, I have witnessed first-hand the enduring value of politically engaged citizenry.
“In spite of the turbulent political divides we are currently enduring,” he continued, “I feel more hopeful today than ever about our ability as Americans to combat climate change, and I am excited to share this with audiences so that they may feel this way as well.”
For more information: