Charles Ferguson’s Time to Choose Opens in Boston

The Oscar winner and MIT alum talks about his new climate change documentary.

Time to Choose

Photo Provided

After tackling the Iraq War quagmire and taking on the 2007 financial crisis, Charles Ferguson now has climate change in his crosshairs with his new film, Time to Choose.

The filmmaker and MIT alum—who won an Oscar in 2010 for his Matt Damon-narrated documentary Inside Job—felt that delving into the issue of climate change was the logical next step for him after meeting with several leaders in the field.

Time to Choose, which opens in Boston this weekend, is a lot more hopeful than previous climate change documentaries, such as Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. While the film doesn’t shy away from showing the gravity of the problem, it makes sure to note that the issue is solvable and there are many promising solutions already at our fingertips which can revolutionize the way we live.

“There’s many ways to have better lives if we took the steps to solve these problems,” Ferguson said.

From Brazil to China, Ferguson went across the globe to document how different countries are handling the issue.

Even though the director was encouraged to see the rapid adoption of solar energy and urban planning initiatives by the Chinese government, he was utterly shocked to see the toll that the coal industry has taken on the population.

“What I didn’t understand was that just coal mining had killed a million people,” Ferguson said. “That’s really astonishing to me.”

Here in the United States, the coal industry has had a similarly negative effect on the communities they operate in, like in West Virginia and parts of Kentucky.

Ferguson notes that people in these regions are proud to be coal miners, but the work has devastated both their health and their environment. Since there are few opportunities to get a new job or move away, many have fallen under the spell of opioid addiction.

“There’s nothing else that you could possibly do,” Ferguson said. “That area is now kind of ground zero for prescription opioids in the United States. It’s tragic to see.”

As climate change is poised to become a huge factor during this year’s presidential election, the director believes that the Democrats have been the most vocal candidates on the issue, particularly Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

“Mr. Sanders, he’s much more clear and direct and forceful about it, which is good,” Ferguson said. “There’s no equivocation, no maybe. It’s very clear that he thinks it’s an overwhelmingly important problem that has to be addressed.”

The filmmaker also praised former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her political expertise and willingness to work on the crisis, although he admits that she’s tried not to offend anyone while talking about climate change.

“Mrs. Clinton is somewhat more equivocal, a little more triangulating, a little more careful about offending people,” Ferguson said. “On the other hand, it’s also clear that she takes it seriously and she presumably has the expertise and the political knowledge to get things done. She’s really serious about it. We’ll find out, well, I hope we’ll find out.”

As for Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump, who thinks climate change is hoax made up by China, Ferguson was pretty blunt about his thoughts on the candidate.

“Obviously, it would not be a good thing, in my view, if Mr. Trump became our president,” he said.

Unfortunately, the clock is ticking on fixing this crisis, and it’s going to be up to the next president and other world leaders to solve it.

Although Ferguson remains hopeful, he can’t say for sure if we are adapting clean energy technologies at a fast enough rate.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I think it’s a very open question.”

‘Time to Choose’ is now playing at the Landmark Kendall Square in Cambridge.