Annual Hollywood 2019 awards fix sights on Paul Schrader’s cli-fi movie ‘First Reformed (Church)’

Will it take awards and honors for ‘First Reformed’– starring Ethan Hawke — to influence public understanding of and concern for climate change? Is this a cli-fi movie worth remembering?

Listen to film critic Michael Svoboda.

”First Reformed,” a powerful ‘cli-fi’ movie by Paul Schrader, unequivocally meets the first criterion for a good ”cli-fi” movie: it addresses climate change clearly and directly, the Yale Climate Communications columnist says in his review of the film.

Svoboda adds: ”In an important early scene, viewers see, taped to a wall, a chart documenting the increase in average global temperature. On the computer screen of a laptop resting on a desk below the chart, they can see a video looping through a color-coded chronicle of that data mapped over the globe. And then they hear the main character, Pastor Ernst Toller (played by actor Ethan Hawke) discussing the consequences of those rising temperatures – sea-level rise, droughts, heat waves, extreme precipitation events, declining food production – with Michael, the husband of one of his parishioners and a parolee who had served time in a Canadian prison for his eco-activism.”

Writing in the Washington Post newspaper, film critic Ann Hornaday described ”First Reformed” as “a mesmerizing, austere drama of one man’s apocalyptic crisis of faith”; it “feels like the movie Paul Schrader was put on this planet to make.”

That’s a thumbs-up!

”First Reformed” also meets the second criterion for a good cli-fi movie: it’s a solid piece of filmmaking. So say reviews offered by dozens of websites and newspapers nationwide. And so says Professor Svoboda here.

But for ”climate change communicators” there is a third criterion for a good cli-fi movie, according to Svoboda: ”Does it promote effective public engagement with climate change?”

YCC enlisted the aid of Leslie Davenport, a practicing psychotherapist and climate activist who has served on several Red Cross Disaster Mental Health Teams. Davenport agreed to see the movie and then respond to questions via e-mail. (“Wow,” was how she summed up her reaction in the e-mail she sent immediately after seeing it.)

About the Author
Danny Bloom is editor of The Cli-Fi Report.
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