I wrote this post in October, before November 8, before the world turned upside-down for the seemingly umpteenth time since 2016 began. It seems even more apropos now.
As someone who calls two continents home, I have watched anxiously in worry and fear as places close to my heart have become increasingly polarized by divisive politics. Things I never thought possible even five years ago have happened, and continue to happen. At times, I feel overwhelmed with despair. How did we get here? Is there even a way out of this mess?
Now, more than ever, it is important not to lose sight of the fact that there is hope in the midst of chaos. It’s easy to forget because voices raised in fear and hate tend to drown out those around them. But we need to remind ourselves that quietly, all over the world, there are men and women who get up every day and continue to fight the good fight. They are the everyday warriors and the more we share their stories, the more power we give them. And perhaps, through sharing their stories and showing what is possible, we can find the strength and courage we need to effect change too. – Darlene
“There are solutions. And if we give it everything we’ve got, if we all join our forces and hearts, we can all start to change the world. Demain.”
“People are tired of hearing about what’s going wrong in the world. Everything is going wrong. Telling people over and over again doesn’t get you anywhere. So we decided to try something different instead.”
2015 was a difficult and emotional year for those of us living in Paris, and by December, the barrage of “everything’s awful” news filling my Facebook feed on a daily basis was more than I could handle. So when I saw the trailer for Demain (“Tomorrow”), I was intrigued. The documentary from French actress Mélanie Laurent and activist Cyril Dion, promised to give people a break from the “everything’s awful” discourse and take a different approach to looking at the world’s problems—a hopeful approach—and hope was something I was in sore need of in that moment.
Offshore Wind Farm, Middelgrunden, Denmark
The story of how Demain came to be is in itself hopeful and inspiring. The film largely owes its financial start to a crowdfunding campaign that bypassed its original goal of €200,000 in a mere 48 hours, and went on to raise a staggering €444,390 over two months—a world record for this kind of documentary funding. More than 10,000 private citizens from across the country donated, all eager to see Laurent and Dion’s project, with its optimistic outlook on our ability to rewrite the future, become a reality.
Demain did not disappoint. The movie takes its audience on a two-hour journey across the globe to visit (extra)ordinary men and women who are working to bring about positive change, one community garden, one local currency, one windmill, one school and one democratic reform at a time. Instead of presenting the environment as an isolated issue, it demonstrates, in layman’s terms, how agriculture, energy, economy, democracy and education are all linked, and why bringing about change in one necessitates rethinking our approach to the others.
Vandana Shiva (Activist)
From urban farms in Detroit; to Copenhagen, where renewable energy is replacing oil and gas; to Totnes, England, where a new currency is revitalizing local business; to Kuthambakkam, India, where mixed-caste housing is changing how people engage with their community, Demain is an ode to what tomorrow could look like, a beacon of hope for the future in a world where we often feel overwhelmed with threats of impending doom. Rather than playing on fear, it inspires us to act by sharing stories of positive change happening everywhere in the world. I came out of the theatre feeling energized and as if I, too, had the power to make a difference.
La Réunion, France
I clearly wasn’t the only one. To the delight and surprise of everyone involved, word of mouth about the film spread like wildfire after its modest opening last December and soon it was playing to packed houses across the country. To date, more than 1.1 million people have flocked to see Demain in France alone—an almost unheard-of number for a small documentary about the environment. The film has now played in 27 countries and was named Best Documentary at the 2016 Césars (think French Oscars).
But to me, the true testimony to Demain’s success lies in its legacy: more than 400 environmental and economic initiatives (and counting) have sprung up in its wake, including a local currency (the “stück”) in Strasbourg, community gardens in Dreux, and “Marseille Demain” in the south of France, a program which promotes sustainable initiatives for the “Marseille of tomorrow”.
Rob Hopkins (Founder of the Transition Movement). Stück currency, Strasbourg, France
“We didn’t start with, ‘Shall we save the planet?’, because that was too grand. ‘We’ll just start with where we are,'” explains one activist in the documentary. Much like its subject matter, Demain started out as a homegrown project from people who wanted to do something to make a difference. Proof positive that just because an initiative is local doesn’t mean it doesn’t have the power to impact us on a global scale.
Recology recycling plant, San Francisco, USA. Kirkkojärvi Comprehensive School, Espoo, Helsinki, Finland
For more information about upcoming screenings of Demain, check out the film’s website. And if you’re itching to make a change but Paris’ community gardens and compost programs aren’t for you, why not start small with French app 90 Jours? It’s an “environmental coach” that assigns you challenges ranging from “peeing in the shower” to “swapping your cleaning products for vinegar”, all designed to help you become more eco-friendly in just 90 days.
- Cyril and Mélanie share more on their goals for the film in this interview with Place to B.
- The organic revolution is huge in Paris. Here is our overview of the city’s best Bio shops.
- Composting is an easy way to make a small environmental contribution. We recently explored the idea: Part I & Part II.
Charles and Perrine Hervé-Gruyer (Organic Farmers) in Normandy, France.
Written by Darlene Lim for HiP Paris. All photos by Demain Le Film. Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, London, Provence, or Tuscany? Check out Haven In.