The Age of Stupid

by James McNally on September 22, 2009

in Documentaries,Theatrical Release

The Age of Stupid

The Age of Stupid (Director: Franny Armstrong): I’ve been fol­lowing the story of this film for more than a year now and was glad to finally be able to see it last night at the Canadian premiere. The Age of Stupid is unique because the cre­ators have used the Internet to crowd­fund the making of the film, and they’re doing the same thing to dis­tribute and pro­mote it. This Huffington Post art­icle applauds the film­makers for enga­ging with the audi­ence dir­ectly and using social media tools to accom­plish a lot on a lim­ited budget. Even if they film was simply mediocre, the amount of work they’ve put into spreading the word will con­tain les­sons for many film­makers trying to get their films seen without the backing of a major studio. Luckily, the film is far from mediocre.

Essentially an envir­on­mental doc­u­mentary, what sets The Age of Stupid apart is its clever framing device and bril­liant editing. Pete Postlethwaite stars as the arch­ivist, a lone figure watching over a col­lec­tion of the earth’s greatest treas­ures in a building high above the Arctic sea. The year is 2055 and he’s looking back at video evid­ence of the envir­on­mental degrad­a­tion that we could have avoided. As he accesses and moves clips around his screen, he won­ders mourn­fully why we didn’t do any­thing to avoid this cata­strophe. In this way, dir­ector Franny Armstrong can show us sev­eral dif­ferent doc­u­mentary threads within a (sci­ence) fic­tional frame­work. The editing is slick and the way in which some of the seg­ments are ordered makes for a powerful and thought-provoking viewing experience.

For instance, one of the threads fol­lows Indian entre­preneur Jeh Wadia as he attempts to launch a low-cost air­line in India. He sees his mis­sion as bene­fi­cial, allowing all Indians access to cheap air travel. But in some of the other seg­ments, we learn that the greatest con­trib­utor to green­house gases is air travel. It’s going to be very dif­fi­cult to con­vince people in the devel­oping world to give up things that we have taken for granted for many years. Another affecting story is that of French moun­tain guide Fernand Pereau, who has watched the gla­ciers in the French Alps melt over the past fifty years. His mournful 82-year-old face has seen a lot of “pro­gress” and as he says, we know quite well how to profit from the earth, but not to pro­tect it.

Even those who are working for change are coming up against obstacles. Piers Guy is working to expand the use of wind power tur­bines in the UK, but he faces oppos­i­tion every­where from people who don’t want the tur­bines to “spoil the view.” His frus­tra­tion is palp­able and is being played out all over the world. In fact, the film itself doesn’t really offer a lot of solu­tions, but it does do a good job of expressing the all-encompassing nature of the problem. Luckily, the film­makers have partnered with many organ­iz­a­tions who are working for change, and have estab­lished another web­site, NotStupid.org which will serve as a con­stantly evolving resource for action.

The film also uses anim­a­tion to take on such wide-ranging topics as resource wars and con­sumerism. I can see this being a must-see for stu­dents, and much less dry than An Inconvenient Truth. Even the title hints at the ample humour in the film, even if it is just to reit­erate how stupid our beha­viour has been. I’m also impressed that the film­makers have made a huge effort to have the film shown in every country in the world. In fact, the Global Premiere is taking place over two days, September 21st and 22nd. This guar­an­tees world­wide media cov­erage and might even help the issue of cli­mate change reach crit­ical mass in the col­lective con­scious­ness of the humans on an ailing Planet Earth.

Note: Last night’s Canadian premiere was sponsored by the Climate Action Network who recom­mended that people sign the peti­tion at KyotoPlus.ca. Another good resource is tck tck tck. The film will have its first public screening in Toronto on Saturday October 3rd at 6:30 at the Royal Cinema as part of the inaug­ural M.U.C.K. (Movies of Uncommon Knowledge) Film Festival.

Official site of the film

9/10(9/10)

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