OWNING THE WEATHER

Man-Made Nature?

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(Owning the Weather is now available through the following outlets: Cable VOD, Amazon, iTunes. Director Robert Greene will in attendance for tonight’s screening—7:30pm, Thursday January 7, 2010—at 92YTribeca. Visit the official website to learn more.)

“The concept of geoengineering seems to be asking me to buy the hypothesis that a creature that can’t control its intake of chili dogs should be in charge of the wind and the rain.” — Garret Keizer, Contributing Editor, Harper’s Magazine

I have a friend who has a job and functions well enough in society, yet he is borderline obsessed with matters of governmental conspiracy. These concerns are most sharply pointed in the direction of the United States powers-that-be and their ongoing role in many devious covert projects. A few months ago, he told me that they know how to manipulate the weather. When he linked this information to Hurricane Katrina, I checked out. I didn’t even bother to look into his claim of weather modification. It sounded like hokey sci-fi to me.

And hokey sci-fi it is. But after watching Robert Greene’s Owning the Weather, it’s also clear that, as the saying goes, reality often takes its latest cues from hokey science fiction. Greene’s thoughtfully skeptical investigation into the controversial topic of manmade weather manipulation is overflowing with statistics and insights that will make an uneducated viewer (i.e., yours truly) feel wobbly.

Here is an exclusive clip from the film to give you a taste:

Most impressively, Owning the Weather is a very fine example in how to make an information-heavy, data-laden documentary that doesn’t succumb to its own headiness. Greene never forgets that he’s making a movie, and respects the medium by cleverly employing the tools of the trade—soundtrack, cinematography, editing—to add genuine drama and tension. He also shows a surprising thoroughness in traveling all over the globe to follow up on points that his interviewees have made. By the end of Owning the Weather, it feels like he’s left no stone unturned.

Which isn’t to say that there is a definitive resolution. While it appears that Greene sides more with the detractors than the supporters, he also takes the time to state a valuable case for the concept of weather modification. It’s obvious that our natural atmosphere is heading in a precarious direction, yet the ultimate question remains (as expressed so well in the above quote): If we caused the problem, then can we trust ourselves to fix it? Though it may not be as overtly and immediately terrifying as Chris Smith’s Collapse, Owning the Weather makes for a similarly unsettling companion piece. At the very least, it woke up this ignorant viewer.

— Michael Tully

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