To the End director Rachel Lears would “love to know” what West Virginia U.S. Senator Joe Manchin thinks of her Sundance documentary on climate change activism and the complex and tangled politics around it. But she’s not holding her breath.
“I hope all politicians see this movie, but I haven’t necessarily been thinking of politicians as much, as the target audience is more just people who care about this issue or who even have heard of it,” Lears said following the documentary’s premiere this week at the Sundance Film Festival. “I really want people who care about it, but who are not actively involved in any way, to see it and have a light bulb go off that like Oh, I could be part of this. I could join this movement.”
As for Manchin? She’s not sure this is his kind of movie.
“In terms of Joe Manchin, honestly… he decided not to have a conversation with the Sunrise activists that confronted him at his parking garage on the way to his yacht. If he didn’t want to talk to them in that moment, then I’m not sure this film is for him,” she said. “I’d love to know what he thinks.”
As the documentary addresses, Manchin blocked President Biden’s $1.75 trillion Build Back Better bill, which was meant to help combat the climate crisis as well as improve health and social care — and which was supported by backers of the Green New Deal, including Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who also figures prominently in the documentary.
“When Manchin came out with his statement in December that he couldn’t continue with the negotiations, we knew we had to acknowledge that,” Lears said.
Most of all, Lears just hopes To the End will be the catalyst that gets more people involved in climate activism.
“It’s moving people from passive to active support of a movement that I want to see,” she said. “People who have heard of the climate crisis but haven’t really thought about what solutions are, who might be stuck in that place of despair or cynicism.”
However, Lears knows that solving the climate crisis won’t be easy. She made no attempts to beat around the bush in To the End, which at times shows young activists in tears as they struggle to convince their elected leaders to listen to them.
“We’re not sugarcoating,” she said. “It’s not that kind of movie.”
“This is a fight that’s going to be happening whether any individual of us is involved in it or not, and we all have a choice about which side of it we’re going to be on,” she added. “What we’re thinking about in terms of an audience is just kind of getting people who are maybe aware of it who are concerned but haven’t really thought about themselves as having any sort of role, or the fact that it might be an issue for politics as opposed to consumer choice. Those are the people we’re most interested in reaching.”
To the End premiered on Jan. 23 at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival and is currently seeking a distribution deal.
Main Image: American activist and political commentator Alexandra Rojas appears in To the End by Rachel Lears, an official selection of the Premieres section at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.