AGE OF STUPID, THE
An archivist (Pete Postlethwaite) in 2055, looks at footage from 2015 to try and understand why mankind failed to address climate change.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
It begins with the declaration 'the future climate events portrayed in this film are based on mainstream scientific projections' - and that's when the alarm goes off. On this subject, mainstream scientific projections are arguable: in the history of science, 'mainstream' opinions don't have a solid track record, as people like Galileo and many others have shown. But at least we know where the filmmakers stand: global warming is all man's doing. And we can stop it. Ironically, though, one of the interview subjects in the film talks about the falsity of 'predominant thinking' when 'everybody else is doing it' (the good old mainstream thing) which isn't a good reason for doing something. He lists terrible things in history that everyone regrets now, such as "massacres, the Holocaust etc".
London is flooded, Las Vegas is sand-bound and the Sydney Opera House is burning. Chelsea Clinton is President and the North Sea is boiling. We are flown to the Global Archive, 800kms north of Norway in the Arctic. Crinkle faced Pete Postlethwaite welcomes us to the ark of the world's treasures, collections from the world's national museums, and pickled animals 2 x 2. The terrible conditions we glimpse at the start, are actually caused by "our own behaviour leading up to 2015" says the Archivist.
Where Al Gore had his powerpoint in An Inconvenient Truth (2006), Postlethwaite is given a much cooler gadget, the touch screen. It's well used, too. He touch-screens some footage, including snapshots of 'future' news reports (eg 'the desert is expanding at a staggering rate of three miles every year' / '18 countries are under water and 1.5 million people are affected' [small countries, obviously]). Director Franny Armstrong also uses real events, including an extensive, repetitive tear-jerker piece on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, as emotional leverage. This kind of manipulation puts some people off (including me) because it emphasises that the film is mere propaganda for its own position on the subject.
Given that, it's reasonably well made, albeit simplistic and Armstrong is less than focused; she goes from oil exploration to African poverty to Big Oil's insensitivity, exploitation and its rapacious nature. (Local corruption is tossed aside... and the obscenity of an absurdly oil rich Middle East whose population is still poor is not even mentioned.) Half the world's evils are grabbed by Postlethwaite's nimble fingers on the touch screen, and as quickly whisked away. The risk is that everything is trivialised and generalised, lumped together jumble sale style, to build a bigger argument. But more is not always more - as the film itself argues viz consumerism.
Adopting some animation techniques - reminiscent of Bruce Petty's Global Haywire in some respects, including the overall theme of ...well, global haywire - The Age of Stupid does little more than enumerate the ills and evils of today's world in a cry of panic and accusation, regurgitating those images and messages that serve its cause. A new film, a new event, a new occasion to beat the drum; but is the drum sending the right message?
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AGE OF STUPID, THE (MA)
CAST: Documentary with Pete Postlethwaite and featuring Jamila and Adnan Bayyoud, Alvin DuVernay, Piers Guy, Lefaya Malini, Fernand Pareau, Jeh Wadia
PRODUCER: Lizzie Gillett
DIRECTOR: Franny Armstrong
SCRIPT: Franny Armstrong
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Lawrence Gardner
EDITOR: David G. Hill
MUSIC: Chris Brierley
PRODUCTION DESIGN: David Bryan
RUNNING TIME: 92 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hoyts
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 19, 2009 (Hoyts cinemas only)