Solar Power’s Promise Infuses a New Film

Filmmaker Shalini Kantayya set out to show that climate change isn’t all gloom and doom. The result, Catching the Sun, ably makes that case but may still leave you inspired and infuriated in equal parts.

This fast-paced and compelling new documentary, which premieres Friday in New York City and in cities nationwide during April, follows a diverse group of job seekers, activists, politicians, and entrepreneurs as they tap into the world’s growing solar power economy.
Kantayya jumps between nations that have unequivocally adopted policies to speed up adoption of renewables and more fitful efforts here in the United States to expand solar energy—from a program in Richmond, Virginia, training unemployed men and women to become solar panel installers to a “Green Tea Party” member and energy independence advocate working both sides of the halls of power in Georgia.

The sharpest contrast comes in the parallel stories of two young visionaries: American activist Van Jones and Chinese entrepreneur Zhongwei “Wally” Jiang.

Jones, the founder of the group behind the Richmond solar jobs training program, finds himself recruited by the Obama administration in 2009 to take similar efforts nationwide. We follow him across the country and into the White House, where his work—and a potentially revolutionary climate and clean energy bill in Congress—attracts powerful right-wing attacks that leave Jones bewildered and politically vulnerable.

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