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The Age Of Stupid has just opened on 78 screens across the UK - a
remarkable feat for a genre-defying independent feature made on a shoe
string, funded by ordinary households and distributed with a launch
budget of just £130,000. To put this in perspective, An Inconvenient
Truth opened in 2006 on just 18 screens and a typical UK-wide release
spends around £650,000 telling people to go and see their film.
So why all the fuss?
Four years ago McLibel director Fanny Amstrong and producer Lizzie Gillett set about making a documentary called (at the time) Crude, which charted the ugly side of the oil industry. Fast forward to 2009 and the project has finally emerged as a surprisingly human and touching call-to-arms about climate change called Age Of Stupid.
The film opens in 2055 with Pete Postlethwaite, archivist of a ruined earth, looking back at images of the present day, trying to answer the question of why humanity didn't save itself when it had the chance. Archival news material and animated sequences are used to provide background and context, but the focus is on documentary stories of real people facing the effects of our hunger for fossil fuels.
As a result, the film does not labour under the burden of attempting to sway the undecided through facts and figures - though it's possible that even Sarah Palin herself could not fail to be affected by the story of Fernand Pareau, an octogenarian French mountain guide, showing us the glacier he loves as it withers away before his eyes.
As we explore the ageing archivist's question, we encounter "not in my back yard" anti-wind farm protesters, committed climate change activists and an entrepreneur who dreams of ending poverty by starting India's third budget airline. Blame is ultimately laid at the feet of our culture of consumerism, and the implication is that profound social changes will be required to survive the present age - poignantly exemplified in a sequence involving Alvin DuVernay, a hurricane Katrina survivor who, having lost all of his possessions, philosophically reflects on what it took for him to realise what was actually important to him.
At the time of writing, around half of the IMDb votes have given the film a rating of 9 or 10 and around a quarter have given it rating of 1. This polarisation is not about artistic merit, but between those for whom the film has deeply resonated and those who find it confronting and uncomfortable.
I've read some complaints about the film being preachy, and it is certainly true that there is forceful criticism of say Shell's operations in the Niger delta and the Iraq war. There is no attempt to present any positive outcome of these interventions, but then I'm not expecting a rush of filmmakers wanting to fill this particular gap in the market.
In general the voices of dissent come from the mouths of those directly affected, and indeed it is the human face of these stories that is one of the film's engaging strengths. History's witness is not always the great orator we want it to be, but over 90 minutes the film manages to maintain a good pace and link the various threads together.
The Age Of Stupid has dispensed with convention in a multitude of ways, not the least of which is the way it has forced its way onto our screens, seemingly through sheer force of will alone. Ultimately the merit of the film is not about the quality of editing or its performances, but its transformational potential. I genuinely think that many viewers will leave the cinema and, like Alvin DuVernay, start to question the world which surrounds them, and it is this quality which makes The Age Of Stupid a truly remarkable film.
The Age of Stupid is a film about climate change, but it's not An
Inconvenient Truth: Part Deux. Whereas the purpose of Al Gore's 2006
box office hit was to shake us from our slumber of self-comforting
denial, Stupid is designed to take hold of our heads and smash our
faces repeatedly into a table until we get up and do things
It's indicative of how the debate has shifted over the last few years that Stupid does not spend time linking climate change with greenhouse gas emissions. The film states that less than 1% of climate scientists believe that there is any doubt about that link (even if this number rises to 60% when the general public are asked their opinion). The debate is over at long last, so the intention of Stupid is to use human stories to illustrate what a serious pickle our species has got itself into.
Stupid is mostly a documentary following the very different lives of six individuals and families around the world. The subjects include an oil geologist who lived in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit, attempting to deal with the devastation of losing everything he owned to a natural disaster that was probably worsened by the burning of oil that he discovered.
Stupid is immaculately produced, carefully involving the audience in the on screen emotions, from sharing the heartbreak of the elderly French mountain guide witnessing a glacier recede, to the frustrated anger of the environmentalist whose wind farm had been blocked by a local NIMBY campaign.
Linking the documentaries together is a series of animated fact files from Passion Pictures (famous for the Gorrilaz) and an innovative fictional subplot starring Pete Postlethwaite. Postlethwaite plays the role of an archivist in 2055, responsible for curating a climate-proof store of human culture, history and scientific discovery, as well as two pickled specimens of every creature on Earth. At this stage, the planet is all-but uninhabitable and the archivist creates the film as a warning for whichever civilisation finally inherits the Earth.
Stupid focuses on the idea that it was our behaviour in the years up to 2015 that caused unstoppable climate change, culminating in the near- extinction of life by the middle of the century. Postelthwaite's character struggles to comprehend quite why we did nothing to stop our own suicide even when we knew that we could.
So is it a good film? Yes, it's bordering on the brilliant. At times it made me laugh, at other times it filled me with tears, and at one point I literally swung my fist in anger at the Daily Mail worshipping, house price obsessed, anti-wind lobbyists. Stupid isn't perfect; I felt that a couple of the documentary subjects distracted from the main issue of climate change by focusing on the evils of Big Oil. However, I would still challenge anyone who sees this film to leave the cinema without a fire in their belly.
Sadly, The Age of Stupid has not been seen by many people. It is an independent film which was funded entirely by small contributions from public investors. As such, it hasn't had the benefit of large distribution networks and, three weeks after release, is only now available at a few commendable cinemas. I shared the experience with 13 other people at the Panton St Odeon in London. Elsewhere, Horne and Corden's Lesbian Vampire Killers was probably playing to a full house. The Age of Stupid sounds like quite an apt title to me.
The film contrasts a bleak future that we are heading towards with the current way people carry on as usual. The archivist (Pete Postlethwaite) looks after the best of the planets museum exhibits, and looks back from the year 2055 at how we got there. He observes a group in Bedfordshire stopping a potential wind farm from getting through planning, an entrepreneur in India starting a low cost airline, a woman surviving in Nigeria torn by Shell's oil extraction, children exiled from Iraq and a man retired from the oil industry living in New Orleans during and after Hurricane Katrina. The scenarios show how complicated it can be to make a difference, but that its something we need, and must, do.
As a scientist (biochemist) almost every day I feel deep pain in my heart when the news shows frustrating human impact on the nature. Maybe 10 years pass since I joined Greenpeace site, but political instability in my country (Serbia) didn't let me to join the Greenpeace world protests, but I plan to participate in the future. The plot of this movie is more than realistic, all scientific evidences predicts very black future if global emission of greenhouse gases doesn't rapidly decrease until 2015. So, plotted 2055. tower whit the Archivist wouldn't be SF... The film have strong green message, and I am 100% sure that I'll watch again and recommend the film to my friends.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Age of Stupid is an unashamedly polemic film. If you are looking
for a documentary that disinterestedly unpicks the various scientific,
social, economic and political debates surrounding climate change then
you face disappointment. What the film does provide the audience is an
ambitious venture into back casting. The film does not peer into the
future but rather paints a bleak picture of a planet devastated by
climate change by 2055 and then looks back through the eyes of the
archivist (Pete Postlethwaite) in an effort to understand how our
species had driven itself to near extinction.
The film uses a narrative device similar to Soderbergh's Traffic. Half a dozen separate stories draw out related themes of consumption, resource depletion and war and environmental degradation. The technique provides an engaging human perspective on both the causes and impacts of anthropogenic climate change. These stories are interspersed with several beautifully crafted animations that drive home the films central point, that ever expanding economic growth on a planet of finite resources is unsustainable.
Taken as a whole The Age of Stupid is a thought provoking and compelling look at what could happen without a sustained effort by governments and people in developed countries to challenge our current strategies for energy capture. While there are times when the film perhaps loses focus on its central message this would seem to be a consequence of its makers desire to convey such a weight and range of ideas and information. Possibly controversial and certainly ambitious but well worth watching.
... and also thanks to the ratings and comments on the message board.
(i want to point out that there was a lot more negative
ratings/comments about this movie when i first reviewed it)
the film shows multiple stories which cover different aspects of how people contribute climate change and how they are affected in return. the nice thing is that it isn't a emotionally distanced documentary that just shows the results in a rather cold manner but also shows motivations of people and parts of their personal life.
a similar assumption to the one being made at the end of "diary of the dead" is being made in this movie: maybe humanity isn't worth saving. this thought is underlined by examples of ignorant and egotistical people.
some here say the movie is preachy - i think it is not preachy enough. you can't break the brainwashing of stupidity outlets like fox news with just showing facts. there should be texts saying "YOU are killing people right now". well, maybe not quite as harsh but still... the majority of the people need a metaphorical slap in the face to wake them up.
which brings me to the way in which this movie has changed my thoughts (and behavior). while watching these idiots protest a wind farm because their precious "view" might be destroyed, something finally clicked. i always knew that the majority of people are like that but the thing is - there is no appealing to them. their comfort is more important than anything else. and because of that, humanity truly deserves to perish. i've always tried to help and my biggest goal in life was to somehow improve life for people - but i now realize that they don't deserve it.
Although I understand and comprehend the role that Al Gore's movie played in the USA, Gore's work is perhaps best seen as a US phenomenon. It is true that he has been very important in the broader context - not the least due to his primary audience (USA, that is) being responsible for such staggering volumes of material/energy consumption on this planet - but his movie was never really that mental quantum leap on the other side of the pond - at least not here in Sweden. I guess it's related to education: a foul combination of conspiracists-out-of-work and lobbyists-very-much-at-work put the USA somewhat behind the rest of the world, as reflected in the non-signing of the Kyoto protocol. As a business owner, I run an online store here in Sweden through which I sell consumer products. The Age of Stupid hasn't stopped me, but it has put it all - and I mean ALL - in a totally new perspective. I did cry when E.T. flew home in his spaceship - I was 14 at the time - so The Age of Stupid is the second movie ever that has made me cry. We live in a world where economic growth, employment and profits somehow are seen as having a higher priority than planetary/human survival. Somehow, we (at least me) live under the pretext that the human spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation would somehow wither away if we were to reduce, or even stabilize, our planetary load. Furthermore, we have a hard time translating happiness, and its increase, into something that doesn't has to do with consumerism. The Age of Stupid is a documentary that not only made me vegetarian, but it has also fundamentally changed the way I do business. My e-store now contains a consumption warning, explicitly asking my would-be customers NOT to shop - or at least restrict their spending as much as possible. I encourage other business owners to do the same - which of course is a futile and even comical thing to do for those who hasn't seen this film. So make sure as many people as possible get the chance to watch it. Ask your local cinema to put it up, order a DVD and hold private screenings.
In a polarized world we live in, where greed became not only acceptable, but a virtue, this movie will not make any difference.The egotism and selfishness of our culture will be the end of us as species. Well, we all get what we deserve. Capitalism as destructive, seducing force, doesn't see any need to curb its lunacy. It must grow bigger and fatter, till explodes in our faces, and takes our cowardly world with it.And we all knew it might happen... But, we liked our trinkets and gadgets, our comforts and little pleasures, that became necessary to forget the out of control expanding of our work loads and demands. So, this is the gate in the near frightening future. I hope we all enjoy it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Age of Stupid is an excellent film, mainly because it achieves
something quite rare in documentary films; it manages to be informative
and reasonably scientifically accurate whilst still being immensely
The film does not, as some other reviewers have suggested, present good and evil characters of climate change. It instead presents people doing more and doing less, and people who are more affected than others. The strongest message is that your actions affect others. By being frivolous with energy and resources, you are destroying other people's quality of life. The film refers to the human race as 'suicidal', but shows people engaging in things which kill each other, not themselves. All this hits home in a way that other films have failed to. For one rare moment, the viewer sees a direct link between their day to day life, and the far off repercussions.
The film is remarkable for its effects. It leaves you desperate to get involved, to try and make a difference. It also leaves you more aware of why, and helps the viewer understand the science behind it all.
The films jumps between sections in the future, documentary footage, news bulletins and superb animation. Because of this, it keeps you interested long after many documentaries would leave you yawning.
This is an amazing film, and a must see by anyone and everyone. Even people who I watched this with who were more interested in cars than the environment were converted.
I really enjoyed how this film approached the topic of climate change
from many different angles. By comparing the lives of the different
people featured in the film, one is able to see the variance that
exists in how carbon use varies from one person to another.
The Age of Stupid has a very interesting format. It is supposed to be a transmission that is recorded in the future as a sort of cautionary tale that was to be concealed in a time capsule that documents the the way that the human race eventually destroyed themselves as well as the rest of the world. It is a montage of actual footage from the news and other documentaries, sections that glimpse into the reality of real life characters documented, and commentary from the fictional character who is recording the "transmission."
This was definitely a little out there in terms of format, but had a lot of important information that many people out in the world need to hear and take into consideration. The format may be a bit weird for some to warm up to, but if you can get past that, it is a touching documentary that inspires. In an age where a fairly large percentage of the population does not believe in man-influenced climate change, there's no shortage of stupidity. It's time for people to wake up and see if we can stop and maybe even reverse this damage we're doing to our home.
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