When fiction becomes reality

For a few years now, a new emerging sub-genre has appeared in novels and cinema to describe works that deal with climate change: the ‘Cli-Fi’ genre.

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We all know films such as The Day After Tomorrow, Interstellar, The Revenant or even Avatar. But did you know that these films were part of a new category that is called ‘Cli-Fi’? This term, coined in 2008 by blogger and writer Dan Bloom, is made of the words ‘climate’ and ‘fiction’. It has become more and more popular in recent years with the production of more and more films talking about climate change. It has become a new way to sensibilize people and the young generation to the issue of climate change. Cinema as well as TV series or any other medium are the best way to do so since they always are among the major platforms used by people. The real power of ‘Cli-Fi’ films is their way to educate and sensibilize their audience to the challenges of climate change, as well as to entertain them in order to avoid any boredom. The time when hopeless documentaries by Al Gore or movie star Leonardo DiCaprio told people how our world is in such bad shape is gone. Today, people do not want to be told what to do anymore to change their way of living. The process now, is to convey new ideas and ecological ways of living in a smoother manner. What better way to do it than popcorn and blockbuster films occurring in a post-apocalyptic or dystopian world with a lot of CGI?

A NEW WAY TO RAISE AWARENESS

There is everything people like in these productions: a great show and entertainment without any lessons given to people. Films, TV series, novels or any production that are not overt “lesson givers” talking directly to the audience about climate change, might be the “solution.” When the audience of a film occurring in a post-apocalyptic world sees things such as extreme weather conditions, storms, harsh climate, natural disasters or floods, people understand that it is about climate change and the way our planet has been affected. The purpose of these films is to make people think about a specific issue given in a film. Therefore, when one can see characters struggling to survive in harsh conditions, one understands that if action is not taken straight away, this very situation can happen sooner than one thinks. In this way, people are taught about a subject and become aware of their actions on the Earth.

CLI-FI FILMS

One can think that topics like this can be difficult for people, that they are told about this issue like plenty of others every day in the news. Nevertheless, several of these films about climate change have been successful with critics and audiences. This is due to the strong potential for entertainment in their stories without ever forgetting the message and the sub-text about climate change. Films like The Day After Tomorrow helped to change the view on what one can also call Disaster films. Let us not forget that the highest-grossing film of all time is a ‘Cli-Fi’ film: Avatar. Avatar, released in 2009, really talked seriously about the issue of climate change with its story of an indigenous tribe, the Na’vi, being colonised by humans who destroy their lands and ecosystem. Avatar opened the gate to films like Interstellar and its world ravaged by a drought in reference to the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s as well as Mad Max: Fury Road. Or Snowpiercer and The Revenant that show global cooling in the first and an ice age in the second with all the destruction caused by humans.

At a time when this issue is more important than before, it seems that people enjoy this new approach of talking about climate change. Moreover, the success of these films also allows us to address a broader audience when politicians refuse to believe in what is probably the most dangerous threat of our time. Thankfully, cinema and the arts keep producing materials to raise awareness in a playful way. It works and people like it, so may Cli-Fi last forever.

GOOD TO KNOW:

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The Day After Tomorrow is still the most successful film dedicated to climate change. Despite criticisms from scientific journals, the film is still one of the most watched Cli-Fi films ever released.  With its story of climate disaster and the representation of a father-son relationship, the film offers many disaster film codes. The CGI and the big action scenes allow the film to be very entertaining. Nowadays, films dealing with the subject of climate change are becoming increasingly relevant and raise public awareness. It had to be a starting point for talking to people about a difficult issue, and it started in 2004 with The Day After Tomorrow. It is wise to remember that it was one of the main precursors, whether we like it or not.

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