Gore’s award hurts integrity of documentary category

In selecting Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” as the winner for best documentary, the Academy Awards sent a disturbing message to aspiring documentary makers. The message they sent is: “Don’t bother doing the hard work of capturing events as they happen and gathering a range of interivews. Your work will be trumped for recognition should a politician decide to make a slide show with some fancy cartoons.”

I’m not taking issue so much with the politics of “An Inconvenient Truth,” but with its techniques and treatment of the facts. Many documentary nominees this year had liberal viewpoints. Some were very critical of the war in Iraq. But they adhered to traditional fact-based documentary standards to tell their stories. An Inconvenient Truth, on the other hand, with its use of frightening and speculative cartoons, was more appropriate for the animation category with this year’s Oscar winner “Happy Feet.”

In the past, the Academy had been very strict that documentaries not rely too heavily on techniques such as animation and reenactments. Its current rules still specify that such non-traditional documentary techniques must be based “on fact and not on fiction.”

But in Gore’s film, the famous computerized cartoon of the polar bear drowning does not come close to approximating the reality of the study from which it is based, noted an article in CNSNews.com that cites me.

While Gore refers to “significant numbers” of polar bear drownings, the study only reported four bears’ bodies floating in the sea. And the study attributed these deaths to an abrupt windstorm, not to lack of ice due to global warming. Yet nowhere in An Inconvenient Truth’s polar bear sequence is there a citing or a mention of a storm.

In the article, I compared the polar bear cartoons to other manipulated animal scenes in now-discredited nature documentaries such as Disney’s “White Wilderness” and that in past years, I noted, the Academy has applied “very strong standards against the manipulation of animal scenes in film.” The CNSNews.com report cites prominent film experts, including an Oscar-nominated documentarian, that “An Inconvenient Truth” runs afoul of the Academy’s documentary rules.

For CEI scholars’ takes on other misleading element of Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth,” I recommend reading Marlo Lewis’ “A Skeptics Guide to An Inconvenient Truth, Christopher Horner’s new bestelling book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming, and my recent book, Eco-Freaks: Environmentalism Is Hazardous to Your Health.