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Two must-see films.

With the current and pending challenges we face today — from our quickly-changing and often anxiety-and-fear producing world of pending climate catastrophe, never-ending-COVID-19 variants, political divisiveness, social unrest, a Russian invasion of Ukraine that is lining up allies and adversaries World War style, and mental health challenges like never before — there are two must-see films that together, provide an unlikely road map for 2022 and a sustainable future. The first is Netflix’ biting satire, “Don’t Look Up.” Written, produced, and directed by Adam McKay, the film broke records with over 152 million hours of viewership in early January and has become a divisive cultural phenomenon; everyone from your next-door neighbor to serious journalists and news outlet anchors has an opinion, they are passionate for or against, and we certainly don’t need another review, which this is by all means not. Lesser known but just as important is the Netflix documentary, “14 Peaks: Nothing Is Impossible.” (And no, I am not being paid by Netflix to write this piece, though I might like to be at some point.) Created by Gabriel Clarke and Torquil Jones, the film follows Nepalese mountaineer Nirmal “Nims” Purja and his team as they attempt to climb all 14 eight-thousander peaks within a record time of under seven months. The previous record was set over seven years ago, by Reinhold Messner, and took 16 years to complete.

One is funny but leaves you overwhelmed and feeling rather hopeless

In “Don’t Look Up,” the crisis of an extinction-level meteor heading toward earth and the desperate attempts by two scientists — played by Jennnifer Lawrence and Leonardo Di Caprio — desperately trying to galvanize action from media outlets and global leaders, is used as a metaphor, nudging the audience to consider how we let politics and our prejudices override science and peer reviewed research. It’s a dark comedy call to action, asking us to “look up” at  a world-changing event (climate change) that stand before us, and also, at modern society’s obsession with pop culture, how technology controls us rather than the other way around, and how media and “news” outlets cover and sensationalize stories most likely to garner clicks, rather than those that are perhaps most critical to humanity’s survival. The film includes a roster of big names including Meryl Streep, Jonah Hill, Sir David Mark Rylance, Tyler Perry, Timothée Chalamet, Cate Blanchett, and (surprise) Arianna Grande, all of whom deliver fantastic performances. The characters allude to the likes of everyone from Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, and Jay Z and Beyonce, to Donald Trump, Megan Kelly and Jared Kushner. Response and commentary has generally fallen along party lines and elicited — in addition to the hoped-for uncomfortable laughter — tears, anger, debate, critique, and for many, a sense of hopelessness, compounded by the ongoing pandemic.

The other reminds you that anything is possible and leaves you breathless and inspired.

Enter “14 Peaks,” the story inspired by Nim’s impossible accomplishments. It reminds us that we can, in fact, overcome astounding impossibilities when we work together. “Sometimes,” says Nim, “the idea that you come up with may seem impossible to the rest of the world. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible for you.” The film brings viewers into the intimate, life-ending and life-affirming ups and downs of serious mountaineering — including the incredible physicality of high altitude climbing and survival — and also, a look at the challenging political and social aspects of mountaineering. The red tape and power struggles between countries impacting even climbing permits, for example. The response, not least from within the climbing and mountaineering community itself, has been incredulity. The film is beautifully shot, narrated, and a long-overdue tribute to the Himalayan mountaineers of Nepal and Tibet, collectively often referred to as sherpas; heroic local climbers who support the mostly-White and wealthy climbers of the world who aspire to the tallest peaks but can’t do it alone. There is a theme here.

Our best road map, or North Star, may be in recognizing that the times do feel grim but together, we can address the biggest issues of our times and turn the tide for a greater tomorrow.

Nim and his team set mountaineering records; McKay and his team set viewing records. According to the August 2021 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, we are setting records ourselves as extreme weather events that previously occurred once every 100 years are now happening on a regular basis. Republican or Democrat, actor or scientist, journalist or media personality, every day we are seeing regular and record-setting floods, fires, storms, and glacial melting. “Don’t Look Up,” like it or not, gives a glimpse of what we are up against as a global citizenry. “14 Peaks” inspires us to believe that together, we can rise to the challenges of the times and successfully climb the many mountains before us. We need both of these reminders.