EXCLUSIVE: The trailer to Rachel Lears’ new documentary To the End debuts on over one thousand screens in theaters today, but we’ve got your first look at it here.
Lears’ follow-up to her breakthrough film Knock Down the House documents young progressive activists and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in their relentless effort to engineer major action combatting climate change.
“Fighting for change politically requires faith,” AOC says in the trailer. Regarding the urgent need to avoid a climate catastrophe, Ocasio-Cortez notes, “This is going to be the moon shot of our generation.”
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To the End was acquired by Roadside Attractions after its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival last January. The version of the documentary that hits theaters on December 9 has been significantly revised since Sundance, to reflect dramatic changes in the political fortunes of climate change legislation.
“When the film premiered at Sundance, it was right after [Democratic] Senator Joe Manchin killed the Build Back Better bill. And there was at that point no particular prospect of major climate legislation passing,” Lears tells Deadline. “But as the gears continued churning for a few months, they did reach a deal in July and we knew right away we’ve got to reedit the film, we’ve got to shoot what we can to end the story this way.”
In August President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 into law, providing significant funding for green energy and other measures to attack climate change.
“We changed the ending, for one thing,” Lears explains. “The film now ends with historic legislation passing and our protagonists reflecting on this. And it really shows how their work that we see in the film leads to what happens. What they’ve done is to make politically impossible things become possible.”
Lears shortened her film by 10 minutes and also restructured it to align with what she calls a much more hopeful political picture.
“The film was inspiring to me and to many people who saw it, even in the previous cut, because our protagonists are so determined and motivated in their work,” Lears says. “But it’s even more inspiring now when you see that their work has resulted in historic material change.”
In addition to AOC, the film foregrounds Rhiana Gunn-Wright, director of climate policy at the Roosevelt Institute, Alexandra Rojas, executive director of Justice Democrats, and Varshini Prakash, executive director, Sunrise Movement.
“We are building an army of young people to stop the climate crisis,” Prakash says in the trailer, “and create millions of good jobs for our generation.”
“When we met these folks in 2018 — well, we’ve known some of them before that — they were really setting out to deliberately shift the paradigm on climate. ‘Let’s turn the crisis into an opportunity to build a better society, to make economic and racial justice part of the solution.’ We wanted to see how far are they going to get with that, Lears says. “I don’t think we even imagined that they would manage to pressure the government into passing the biggest climate legislation, not just in U.S. history, but in world history. But that’s exactly what’s happened.”
Watch the trailer above.
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