UN has chance for blockbuster impact

Sunday’s 83rd Academy Awards weren’t overtly green. Natalie Portman wore an eco-friendly dress to a pre-party and the red carpet was in fact made of recycled water bottles, as promised.

Pledges of sustainability were kept, but obviously environmentalism wasn’t in the spotlight.

That could be different next year.

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According to a recent Los Angeles Times article, the United Nations is making a conscious effort to weave itself into the fabric of Hollywood.

“Usually I speak to prime ministers and presidents, but that has its limits,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Times. “Movie producers, directors, actors — they have global reach.”

Ki-moon, who is beginning to push for a film about the reality of global warming, met with actors and representatives from various U.N. panels to discuss upping the visibility of climate change in Hollywood.

So, it’s possible that in the coming years, we’ll be seeing an increase in celebrities not just promoting sustainability or clean energy, but actually starring in movies about it.

The U.N. seems to feel it can no longer effectively reach its constituents, at least on issues like climate change, where it’s harder to pinpoint threats that are tangible and immediate.

The question now is whether or not Hollywood is the right partner for the organization.

It might be. The push into Hollywood should not come across as arbitrarily turning to pop culture to drive home a serious issue; rather, it is an example of the U.N. strategically using its available resources. Earth, March of the Penguins and An Inconvenient Truth all rank among the top 10 highest-grossing documentaries in the history of American cinema, with other similarly-themed projects such as Oceans, Wall-E and Avatar being favorably received as well — clearly the environment already has a place in Hollywood. Why not expand that?

Film isn’t the only medium the U.N. is targeting. According to the Times, the organization is also looking to pursue television series.

In short, the U.N. has recognized the power of actors and social media to effect change.

But just because environmentalism already has its foot in Hollywood’s door doesn’t mean the U.N. doesn’t have its work cut out for it.

As with the Oscars, people don’t turn to Hollywood to hear about recycling and the threat of global warming — people flocked to Avatar because of its visuals, not its plot line.

Don Cheadle, who spoke at Ki-moon’s forum, summed it up best by saying, “most people on Friday night are not going out to see something that tastes like medicine. They want entertainment.”

The jury’s still out on whether or not a movie can educate about the environment and still be entertaining.

Despite the success of some previous films about sustainability and climate change, many others simply left the audience laughing about how cheesy they were. Ki-moon’s assurance to the U.N. and the film industry that “together we can have a blockbuster impact on the world” sadly threatens to follow in the same vein.

Ultimately, this move could prove to have little or no return for the U.N., in which case it would simply be left looking ineffective and out of touch.

We now get to wait and see if the U.N. can take what it perceives to be the environment’s most pressing storylines and inject them into mainstream Hollywood to produce something palatable.

We can only hope that the results are as educational as An Inconvenient Truth and at least as entertaining as Wall-E.

Kastalia Medrano is a sophomore majoring in print and digital journalism and an associate managing editor of the Daily Trojan. Her column, “Green Piece,” runs Tuesdays.