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Age Of Stupid

by: Fanny Armstrong/Spanner Films


April 7th, 2009 · post by Conspiracy Tom · Make a comment

2055? A lone survivor? Sounds like a terrible science fiction movie. The terrible thing is it could be our collective future. Occasional record boss Conspiracy Tom writes his first film review to give his opinion on the recently released Age of Stupid.

The Age of Stupid is the new climate change film from McLibel Director Fanny Armstrong. The film is set in the year 2055, with the lone survivor of cataclysmic climate change, The Archivist, hiding out in an archive near the north pole. The film is based around him looking through records of the early 20th century, compiling the story of the film as a warning for future civilisations of how humanity effectively committed mass suicide.

Inside this science fiction wrapping, the majority of the film is a documentary following several people’s lives; a retired Shell scientist, Alvin Duvernay, who saved 200 people after hurricane Katrina; a Nigerian girl, Layefa Malemi, living in a landscape raped by Shell and who dreams of being a doctor; a wind farm developer, Piers Guy, battling against Bedfordshire based NIMBYs, an 82 year old French climbing guide, Fernand Pareau, who has watched the glaciers recede; an 8 year old Iraqi refugee, Jamila Bayyoud, living in Jordan whose father was killed by an American bomb and a man, Jeh Wadia, starting up his own cheap air fare company.

This film is not another Inconvenient Truth, you can explain the science of global warming ad infinitum, those who don’t want to believe it’s happening will still never listen. Age of Stupid brought the whole situation down to a more human sized perspective.

Originally the film was purely a documentary, following these people through their lives. The science fiction beginning and end were stuck on at a later date. And it sometimes shows; personally, I found the science function elements both annoying and patronising but getting Pete Postlethwaite involved to play The Archivist has massively increased exposure and interest in the film. So as far as trying to reach a new audience and not simply preach to the converted, it worked.

The most fascinating part, for me, was the story of Layefa Malemi and how Shell had ruined her community and poisoned the local waters. I found the part of the film discussing the actions of oil companies and government corruption the most interesting.

It means that the film looks not just at climate change as a scientific phenomena as other documentaries do, but the associated events, the corruption, lies and human tragedy associated with the petrochemical industry. As well as focusing on Shell it covered the Iraq war, with disturbing imagery of dead and wounded people, bringing home the violence on behalf of oil companies in a graphic and uncompromising way.

The strength of the film is the way it intermingles the stories of these different people, never judging anyone as good or bad, just showing that we are all responsible. There is no simplistic solution, we are not up against any one group of evil people who want to ruin the climate, we are up against a system which involves many people, including ourselves, doing things which are ultimately extremely destructive to the global climate.

Crowd funding paid an important part in the making of this film. 258 people backed the film financially, with the vague hope the money might one day come back, whilst the crew itself worked for one third of the standard rate. Without these contributions it is doubtful the film could have seen the light of day. As far as following the film’s own advice, the carbon footprint was 94,270 Kg CO2. This apparently compares to 15 British homes for 1 year.

The film is not just a singular one shot event, it has started a campaign; Not Stupid, intended to lobby to ensure the CO2 cuts agreed in Copenhagen in December (where the successor to the Kyoto treaty will be decided) will follow the science of the IPCC, and thus avoid dangerous climate change. Details on this can be found at: http://www.ageofstupid.net/notstupid. As the film rightly points out, this meeting ( www.cop15.dk )is where our futures will be decided.

Age of Stupid is a powerful, emotive film, which hopefully will make people look at the effects on individuals from climate change, and how we are all part of the problem. Pete Postlethwaite’s sections, though marginally irritating, should make more people watch this film than simply the usual target audience for this subject. I really do recommend you watch this film, even if it just to remember how many aspects there are to climate change, from corrupt oil companies, NIMBYs, corrupt governments, and the comfortable way of life we in the west have become so accustomed to.

Incidentally, if anyone is wondering what the bizarre looking wind turbines on top of The Archive are at the beginning of the film, they’re made by a company called Quiet Revolution.

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