Bright-eyed Australian director Damon Gameau set out in his previous movie, “That Sugar Film” to challenge everyday thoughtlessness about the dangers of our modern lifestyle — and became profoundly sick while doing so. In his new film “2040,” which plays in Berlin’s Generation Kplus section and which he styles as a “hybrid feature documentary,” Gameau challenges us to improve the planet over the next 20 years. Leaving no room for world-weary cynicism, however, he shows that we already have the technology and skills to do it.
How’s your health?
“That Sugar Film” was four years ago. Fortunately, there’s no lasting liver damage.
Where did the idea for this visual letter to your daughter come from?
I wanted to explore what the future could look like by the year 2040 if we simply embraced the best solutions already available to us. The aim was to shift things away from the mainstream narrative, which often overwhelms and paralyzes us from taking action. I didn’t just want a white man’s point of view.
Did you meet resistance from vested interests?
The hardest thing was to avoid political traps. We started with the idea of cleaner air, and cleaner water. The many kids in the film, all around the world, helped us with that. I think we can all agree on those. Our target audience is the family. I’m certainly not taking a great ax to capitalism.
With dramatized sequences, animation, and interviews, “2040” seems logistically and narratively complicated. Did you know where you were going?
Not at all. It was an unfolding journey. Early on, we came across a Bangladesh mini (electricity) grid, where people were able to rely on each other. So that when the main grid went down, their lives carried on. It was inspiring. And once you get going it becomes a very organic process. What started out as a film about reversing global warming and lowering emissions quickly became a story about strengthening communities, improving the quality of food and soil, embracing cheaper and cleaner energy and transport, plus restoring habitats and ecosystems.
It sounds like perfect material for a TV series. You’re not taking that route?
It is feature because it works as a package. It is not meant to be a 22-part letter to my 4-year-old daughter. The model promoted by Good Pitch (one of the co-producers) pairs filmmakers with [NGOs]. There’s lots of material there to mine. That’s where we might look at other things, like a series, if this connects. There’s at least two years of work there to be done.”