Far from issuing a hopeless vision of the future, this year’s Martha’s Vineyard Environmental Film Festival aims to leave audiences optimistic about the solutions to climate change.

The festival runs May 25 to May 28 at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center and features works tackling marine conservation, youth climate activism and cave exploration. The lineup also includes Oscar-winning filmmaker Oliver Stone’s latest project, Nuclear Now, a densely-packed, passionately-advocated argument for embracing nuclear energy.

“When I see these Doomsday articles, it breaks my heart,” Mr. Stone told the Gazette in a recent interview. “I don’t want to read them. I’d rather have some hope.”

Mr. Stone’s film premiered earlier this month and is based on the book A Bright Future by Joshua S. Goldstein and Staffan A. Qvist. It screens at the festival on Friday at 7:30 p.m.

When asked what prompted Mr. Stone to take on climate change as his next subject, he said he had originally been influenced by Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth (2006), directed by Vineyard summer resident Davis Guggenheim. The film awakened him to climate change’s urgency, he said, but for years he could not find a scalable solution.

“Then this book showed up,” he said.

Mr. Stone said he worked with co-author Mr. Goldstein to streamline the book’s original language into a digestible screenplay, adding animations and infographics to better illustrate some of its data.

“I had to put it in terms that I could understand,” he said. “I was teaching myself.”

The film begins with a broad overview of the history of nuclear technology, starting with Marie Curie’s discovery of radioactivity and the midcentury nuclear boom. It then chronicles the ensuing environmentalist backlash against nuclear power plants, championed by high-profile activists such as Jane Fonda and Ralph Nader.

That movement soon made its way to Island shores. In 1976, the Vineyard hosted its own No Nukes Festival, headlined by Carly Simon, to protest new nuclear power plants on the Cape. As recently as 2015, Vineyarders participated in the movement to close the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth.

“I didn’t have a strong position [at the time], but it definitely didn’t seem to be bad, what they were doing,” Mr. Stone said of the cultural backlash. “Then, climate change raised its head.”

Much of the documentary works to disprove misconceptions around nuclear waste and the frequency and lethality of nuclear meltdowns, highlighting more recent technology to make the industry safer. Taking a global perspective, Mr. Stone visits nuclear power plants in Russia and France to show how strides are still being made. In France, nuclear power plants supplied 68 per cent of the country’s electricity in 2021.

“I wanted to make the documentary seal-proof,” Mr. Stone said. “I had to make a reasoned argument.”

Mr. Stone added that much of the stigma against nuclear energy comes from its association with nuclear weapons, which he said undergo a very different manufacturing process.

“It takes so much work to enrich a bomb, to enrich plutonium to the degree that it blows up like that,” he said. “There’s just no comparison.”

The third act of the film looks to the future of the nuclear industry, Mr. Stone said, showcasing the next generation of activists and engineers. In one segment, Mr. Stone interviews TikTok influencer Isabelle Boemeke about her work bringing awareness to nuclear energy as a clean energy source.

“I think younger people are much more open to it,” he said.

More than anything, Mr. Stone believes that Americans must overcome their fear of nuclear power, stoked by works of fiction such as Godzilla and HBO’s Chernobyl (2019), in order to adequately combat climate change. The highly efficient potential of nuclear power, he said, can stand up to coal in a way that renewables cannot.

“It brings prosperity,” he said. “You can accommodate a growing population. You don’t have to minimize everything. You can fly, if you develop your science.”

While film center executive director Richard Paradise recognizes that some audience members might not agree with the thesis of the film, he said he welcomes the chance to open the conversation.

“To be totally in the dark about [nuclear energy] and not talk about it, that’s not the right course either,” he said.

“There’s no right answer,” he continued. “I’m just positive about open discussion.”

And if that discussion leads to change, Mr. Paradise said, all the better.

“Maybe [people will] try to get active a little more, maybe try to donate,” he said. “That’s my hope always, that film has the power to make people think about something a little differently.”

Visit mvfilmsociety.com for full list of films and tickets.