EW's exclusive trailer for the Bridges-narrated documentary 'Living in the Future's Past' teases a deep dive into humanity's influence over the impending environmental apocalypse
If not to dazzle us with his Oscar-winning acting chops, Jeff Bridges is here to remind us of our mortality… and that the apocalypse will most likely be a cataclysmic event of our own doing.
Okay, okay. Maybe we’re being dramatic. But EW’s exclusive trailer for the Oscar-winning actor’s upcoming nature documentary Living in the Future’s Past (opening nationwide Oct. 5) suggests humanity — through a series of individual practices in the name of adding comfort and stability to our lives — is shepherding its own demise through ignorance. With the recent deluge of headlines touting global warming, melting ice caps, and rising sea levels suggesting we’re headed in a grave direction, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the doomsday blues.
But, as Bridges tells EW, “our movie takes a good look under the hood of humanity. It incorporates elements of evolution, emergence, energy, phycology, to show how these effect our environment, our planet. It’s not fear that should drive us to act; It’s love. Like Teddy Roosevelt said, ‘Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.'”
Right. Small-scale changes performed en masse send ripples through the big picture. But the most important question remains: should you be scared of an accelerated path to global destruction?
“No, actually!” says director Susan Kucera, who worked with Bridges (also an executive producer on the project with Jim Smith) to find a fresh way into the discussion on environmental conservation. Instead, Living in the Future’s Past presents philosophical, scientific, easily implementable, and potentially course-rerouting fixes we can responsibly incorporate into everyday life as we aim to build a better, sustainable future on the planet we call home.
“Jeff and I wanted to do something that hadn’t really been done before because there are lots of documentaries that give us information, and we watch that and when we’re done watching we want to crawl into the bed and say, ‘I’m sorry I’m human, what can I do?'” Kucera explains. “But you never really understand how your engagement in everyday life can actually make a difference. So we thought [to] give people the tools or the keys they need to think about these things.”
In other words, true change doesn’t come from scratching “the guilt itch” by donating $20 to Greenpeace. Thinking about “energy flows” and how seemingly minute decisions — from storing surplus food to spending money on an impulsive purchase or simply altering a reliable thought pattern — can send far-reaching waves into earth’s complex systems of operation as a “super-organism,” with each part dependent on another to function as a living entity.
“We’ve gone down this path where we expect things to happen for us and they just aren’t happening. This is the first step,” Kucera notes of the project, which also incorporates spoken perspective from philosophers, politicians, military experts, biologists, writers, professors, and more. “We live in a sea of brains, and this is how we communicate with each other — language is something that makes us so special, so if we can communicate these philosophies and ways of thinking to other people, and then more people do that to other people, it becomes a phenomenon.”
Kucera, for instance, edited the film using only solar power: “It’s these little shifts that, on such a large scale, make a difference…. Having 7 billion people shifting their desire, that’s one of the focuses on the film,” she says. “People should know that their lives actually are important so they don’t feel so depressed and that it seems so overwhelming. In a way this is extremely empowering for a lot of people…. There’s no one size fits all. That’s what we wanted to avoid: trying to tell people what to do.”
Kucera says Bridges and his environmentally-focused sensibilities came to the project as an admirer of her 2014 documentary Breath of Life. Initially boarding the film as a narrator only, Bridges’ role eventually blossomed onto the screen, as the actor — framed by the Santa Yanez Mountains late last year before the Thomas Fire — appears throughout the course of the movie to speak to audiences to communicate “heavy information” in an accessible, “refreshing way,” per Kucera. She also tried to capitalize on his Big Lebowski legacy, penning an early synopsis with the tag line “the earth abides,” but she claims the actor was adamant about not tying the film to his earlier work. So the plan was nixed.
“Then, we came out of the Santa Barbara Film Festival and he’d lost his house [in the Montecito mudslides],” Kucera remembers after wrapping production. “That was very shocking. Twenty-three people died. It was one of those interesting events we’re probably going to see a lot more of, where things are a bit topsy-turvy.”
Ironic as it is that a natural disaster destroyed the home of an artist crafting an environmental documentary, Bridges’ spirit emerged from the rubble with a story to tell and wisdom to impart. And if the film’s message fails to take flight and most of us go down in a (perhaps literal) storm created by our own indifference, may our successors stumble upon Living in the Future’s Past as proof that we tried.
Living in the Future’s Past is in theaters on Oct. 5 via Vision Films and Trafalgar Releasing, with a special one-night-only screening event on Tuesday, Oct. 9 that features Bridges’ exclusive commentary. Watch EW’s exclusive trailer for the film above.