Review by Sean Boelman
With her documentary How to Kill a Cloud, filmmaker Tuija Halttunen sets out to explore the intersection between politics and environmental activism. An intricate, if not too intimate portrait of a brilliant woman trying to change the world, this documentary isn’t so much a call to action as it is a pulling back of the curtain.
The film follows a Finnish scientist who sets out with ambitious plans to create rain in the desert of the United Arab Emirates, soon discovering that her goals may be even more difficult to obtain than she imagined. This is a fascinating story dealing with a real-life issue with which a majority of viewers likely aren’t familiar.
Halttunen’s subject is definitely very compelling as a trailblazing scientist showing a great deal of ambition in trying to solve a seemingly insurmountable challenge. Even if one isn’t familiar with the scientific processes occurring on screen, it is easy to be struck with awe by the sheer drive she and her team have.
Additionally, there is something very inspiring about this story of a female scientist breaking such new ground. Perhaps more impressive, though, is that Halttunen makes it clear that the work this scientist is doing is exceptional, and deserves to be judged on its merits independently of the gender of the person doing it.
However, even though the movie does emphasize the difference one person can make, it also explores the fundamental failures of the system. Possibly out of greed or ignorance, one of the richest countries in the world has an entirely compromised environment, and are just now trying to do something about it now that it’s almost too late.
That said, one thing that Halttunen struggles with is creating a sense of urgency in her film. Although she seems to be trying to emphasize the tedium of bureaucracy and the hoops that the subject must jump through in her mission, it doesn’t serve the ecological timeliness of the movie particularly well.
Much like the scientist’s work, the film is split between the boardroom and the field, and the latter portions look absolutely wonderful. Great cinematography by Ville Hakonen captures clouds in a way that is almost mesmeric. It’s a gorgeous documentary, although that is almost a given with any movie about ecological issues these days.
How to Kill a Cloud is an interesting and beautiful documentary. Although it doesn’t quite hammer home its themes as hard as one would hope, it still brings attention to an issue that hasn’t gotten much attention on a global scale.
How to Kill a Cloud is screening as part of CPH:DOX, which runs April 21 through May 2.