The Race to Save the World

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
The Race to Save the World Movie Poster Image
Earnest profiles of intense environmental activists.
  • NR
  • 2021
  • 102 minutes

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Positive Messages

There's no "Planet B"; we have to come together, regardless of political affiliation, to help Earth thrive for subsequent generations. Demonstrates how civil disobedience can be effective in helping a cause gain awareness and, in this case, force people to think about environmental impact of major sources of climate change, like fossil fuel. Documentary focuses on  importance of courage, integrity, perseverance.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The activists are all sincere, committed, courageous, but some prioritize the cause over time with loved ones, at times causing rifts in family dynamics. The activists, regardless of age, understand how much is at stake if the world continues to ignore climate change.

Violence

Protesters are shown getting arrested, sometimes in disturbing ways (being carried away, handcuffed, etc.).

Sex

A few hugs between couples, hand-holding, and one kiss when a couple reunites after a long separation.

Language

A couple of uses of "f--k" and "f--king," plus a few uses of "friggin'," "damn," "stupid."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Race to Save the World is a documentary about environmental activists who go to extremes, sometimes putting themselves in harm's way and breaking the law in the name of climate justice. The film features activists ages 15 to 72 who individually or collaboratively protest humanity's dependence on environmentally destructive practices. They volunteer to do everything from walking across the country to turning off the North Dakota Keystone Pipeline, from blocking an oil train's passage to joining with others to sue the federal government for the right to clean air. The film is unambiguously in favor of environmental reform and is intended as a call to viewers to do their part for the cause of environmental protection. A few scenes show activists and protesters being arrested, and there are a couple of tearful confessions of how being an activist can be overwhelming and all-consuming, but otherwise the only iffy content is infrequent language (including "f--k") said in frustration.

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What's the story?

THE RACE TO SAVE THE WORLD is the story of several environmental activists, ages 15 to 72, who go to varying lengths to support their causes. Mostly hailing from the West Coast and Pacific Northwest, they cover a broad range. There's teen social justice advocate Aji Piper, who's a named defendant in a lawsuit from 21 kids and teens who sued the federal government for their right to clean air and a safe environment. Miriam Kashia is a 70-something Peace Corps alumna who walks across the country for eight months in the Great March for Climate Action. Seattle-area father Bill Moyer is a "kayaktivist" who uses creative banners and a group of kayakers to protest fossil fuels and oil rigs. And Pacific Northwest mom Abby Brockway gets arrested, along with four others, for blocking the path of an oil train in Washington State. But perhaps the most extreme activist is Michael Foster, who faces criminal charges for illegally turning an emergency shut-off valve in North Dakota to shut off oil pipelines.

Is it any good?

These interesting, if not revelatory, profiles of various climate change activists are both inspiring and cautionary in terms of showing how to balance activism with family and personal life. Director Joe Gantz could have (and perhaps should have) focused on fewer of the activists, digging deeper into their backstories -- what led them to be such committed environmentalists, how their arrests (in a few cases) impacted their loved ones and their day-to-day jobs, etc. Because it includes many activists, The Race to Save the World feels more like a survey than a seminar. Gantz, to his credit, doesn't idolize the folks he profiles. Viewers will no doubt respect the work they do and the risks they take, but the filmmaker doesn't shy away from depicting their struggles to balance eco-activism with parenting, school, and work.

Young Aji is one of the most compelling people in the film, considering his age, commitment, and persuasive speech-making skills. Bill is a kind and loving father who waxes poetic about his kayaktivists' direct actions protesting an oil rig. Miriam, the oldest activist featured, is deserving of more screen time. Walking across the country is no simple feat for anyone, much less a septuagenarian with joint issues. It's hard not to root for her. Abby, however, is an odd choice for the film. She can seem off-putting and entitled, while others come across as more righteous and inspiring. During her court case, she gives such inexplicably awful, cringeworthy testimony that she fights with her own attorney. It's a wonder she was kept in the finished film. Michael Foster, who also could have easily been a solo documentary subject, is the opposite. His final statement is what the documentary boils down to: These are people who are willing to give up their personal freedom for the sake of the Earth's environmental survival, no matter the individual cost.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about environmental and climate change activism, as portrayed in The Race to Save the World. What do you know about the environmental issues discussed in the documentary and how they affect people? How could you find out more?

  • Do you think these activists are going too far? Can you relate to their level of commitment to and intensity about their cause? How has the activism impacted them, both positively and negatively?

  • Which, if any, of the activists do you consider a role model? What character strengths do they display?

  • How has the discussion and debate surrounding climate change changed in recent years? What do you think you can do to help protect the environment?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love activism

Character Strengths

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