Arts & Culture

Jeff Bridges' environmental film bridges past with present to affect future

Jeff Bridges surveys the world around him in “Living in the Future’s Past.” The award-winning environmental documentary incorporates elements of evolution, neuropsychology, emergence, ecology and energy into a shift in thinking about environmental challenges. The film is coming to Marcus Wehrenberg in Cedar Rapids and Sycamore Cinema in Iowa City for one showing Tuesday night. (Sicily Publicity)
Jeff Bridges surveys the world around him in “Living in the Future’s Past.” The award-winning environmental documentary incorporates elements of evolution, neuropsychology, emergence, ecology and energy into a shift in thinking about environmental challenges. The film is coming to Marcus Wehrenberg in Cedar Rapids and Sycamore Cinema in Iowa City for one showing Tuesday night. (Sicily Publicity)
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“Sea Hunt” sparked Jeff Bridges’ lifelong interest in the world around him.

He and his brother, Beau, appeared in their father’s 1960s underwater action adventure TV series, in which Lloyd Bridges narrated his character’s daring diving rescues. His closing comments often included a plea about protecting the marine environment.

“He cared so much about the planet and the ocean,” Jeff Bridges, 68, said by phone from his home in Santa Barbara, Calif. “That really helped form all the things I care about.”

Fast-forward five decades, and now the little boy from the ’60s is an Oscar-winning actor and humanitarian narrating and coproducing the award-winning environmental documentary, “Living in the Future’s Past.” It’s playing nationwide Tuesday (10/9), with 7:30 p.m. showings at Marcus Wehrenberg in Cedar Rapids and Sycamore Cinema in Iowa City.

Bridges shares the screen with scientists, deep thinkers and an array of land and sea creatures “to reveal eye-opening concepts about ourselves and our past, providing fresh insights into our subconscious motivations and their unintended consequences,” according to the film’s synopsis. The focus is on energy, its many shapes, the way it “moves through and animates everything,” how it connects people and how redefining expectations, “not as what we will lose, but what we might gain by preparing for something different.”

It asks, “What kind of future would you like to see?”

“This is the great challenge of our time, dealing with the human impact on the environment and what it means in terms of our civilization going forward,” Wesley Clark, retired U.S. Army general and former NATO Supreme Allied Commander says early in the film.

And near the end, Bridges says: “Energy comes in many forms. It’s both the means and the ends of all our pursuits. All of us held in the arms of the atmosphere. ... Could the solution we’re looking for be inside us? ... Ingenuity’s in our DNA.”

The project, 2 1/2 years in the making, is “something I care very much about,” Bridges told The Gazette. “I love the planet. I’m aware, like so many of us, that we’re fouling our nest and we can do something about it.” He was glad to discover he and director Susan Kucera were “on the same plane” about the film’s intent.

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“We didn’t want it be this doomsday film about how terrible the conditions are,” he said. “We didn’t want to soften that, but we didn’t want to focus on that. We wanted to let people know more about the evolutionary aspects about why we’re behaving the way we are, and bring that into the light.”

LESSONS

“Personally, I learned so many things just being involved,” he said. “One of the things I found fascinating was emergent behavior — this behavior of schools of fish or flocks of birds. How do they move like that with no apparent leader ... and to think of humanity. We are a superorganism that moves in that way, too. We can move very fast.

“We often think about our leaders (as being) a trickle-down thing, and our leaders will lead us out of this problem. I’m questioning that, and thinking it’s maybe got to be a bottom-up kind of thing. We’ve got to be individuals, and really have to get together and think how might we, with all of our personal skills, make a difference and change this thing.”

The documentary isn’t designed to scare viewers or hit the “guilt” button.

“What good does that do,” director and co-producer Kucera, 54, of Maui, said by phone from Great Britain, where she was visiting her daughter and attending a film screening.

It views like a reflection or meditation on energy, its evolution and effects on the planet and its inhabitants. But tucked between scenes of magnificent creatures, bustling cities and sweeping vistas shot in Norway, Iceland, Hawaii, Greece, Jamaica, Great Britain and Italy, are some jarring images of trash heaps and energy-related pollution.

HEIGHTENED AWARENESS

“It’s just a reminder,” Kucera said. “We forget how integral we are to the flow of everything. Everything flows through us. We expend energy, we get energy, we fight over energy — I don’t just mean oil energy — but what does it take to get these things. It takes that kind of energy.

“And so it allows each individual to think. It’s not like we’re all hypocrites. I obviously traveled to make this movie. It’s just looking at ourselves with varying shades of hypocrisy,” she said, “and how do we make things less bad?

“Nothing’s ever going to be perfect, and you can never see around every corner, but it gives you a heightened awareness of how you’re interacting with objects, how your psychology is being played upon. I hate to use the word ‘interconnected,’ because people think, ‘We all know that,’ but it’s in a much deeper way. That’s what I got from this film,” she said.

“I’m much more mindful and aware of what I’m doing now, and how I see things and how I see other people. We’re so used to ‘good’ and ‘bad’ — we put “those people” over there, and we don’t think that’s helpful either.”

Because it isn’t a depressing film, Kucera said it “gives you the tools to think first, to think about how we’re doing things, how we talk to each other. (When) you get all of the pieces together, you look back and say, ‘Aha — now it makes sense to me.’ That’s the feedback we’ve been getting at all of the (film) festivals where it’s played.”

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The documentary seeks to underscore the complex challenges today and yet to come, without throwing it into a “Mad Max” Hollywood doomsdays setting, she said.

“We thought, we’ll just integrate energy, the economy, the environment, philosophy and all the things that underpin our behavior as human beings, and put it all together,” Kucera said, “and you come out the other end, feeling like you’ve got a little more understanding of how things actually work and how your little part might actually move things in a different direction. ...

“Isn’t it easier to talk about these things in a calm way rather than the typical doomsday (film scenario),” she said. “That’s what we think will happen. People will actually start having normal conversations about this, and that’s where it all starts.”

l Comments: (319) 368-8508; diana.nollen@thegazette.com

IF YOU GO

l What: Documentary: “Living in the Future’s Past”

l When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday (10/9)

l Cedar Rapids: Marcus Wehrenberg, $11.25 adults, $7.75 ages 3 to 11 and 60 and over

l Iowa City: Sycamore Cinema, $10.50 adults, $7.50 ages 3 to 11 and 60 and over

l Narrator: Jeff Bridges

l Rated: Not rated

l Run time: 100 min.

l Online: Livinginthefuturespastfilm.com

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Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.