Once You Know (2020)

  • 1h 45m
  • Emmanuel Cappellin
  • France, United States, Bangladesh, Greece
  • 2020

”A powerful narrative that searches for an answer to the question: how do you live in a world on the brink of collapse”?”

Introduced to the beauty of the living world by his parents, Emmanuel Cappellin has always been drawn to environmental issues — especially climate change. Sensitive enough to study it. Passionate enough to make films about it.

He does so while trying to reduce his carbon footprint, including no longer taking flights.

This results in him embarking on a giant container ship while directing a documentary in China. On board, Emmanuel is overwhelmed by the 18,000 containers: millions of goods about to spread all over the face of the Earth. The next day, as he watches an approaching storm through his cabin window, a panic attack overtakes him. Visions of apocalypse flash before his eyes as he roams aimlessly in the ship’s bowels.

This visceral experience at sea is a turning point in Cappellin’s life. He finally believes what he has always known. Unable to shake off his nightmares of an overpopulated, energy-depleted, climate-disrupted world, he wonders how energy and climate specialists who have to face similar visions every day cope with them.

Industrial civilisation faces
climate change induced collapse.
Are some ways of collapsing better than others?

He decides to seek out five climate experts to probe their souls, to explore their vertigo in order to get past his own. How do they stay grounded in both hope and action?

Cappellin’s journey is interwoven with his life in Saillans, the small village in the Alps where he has found refuge following the shock on the container ship.

In Saillans, he discovers the daily joys of becoming a father, but also hears the echo of the issues he discussed with the experts. In the village, these questions come to life with unexpected intensity: participatory democracy, voluntary simplicity, food and energy transition groups, climate refugee hospitality, civil disobedience against fossil fuel projects… Many inhabitants seem to be on the same voyage.

Watch Q&A: Phoebe Fletcher talks to director Emmanuel Cappellin and collaborator Anne-Marie Sangla


English, French

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