Back to the Future
THERE COULD NOT be a more perfect film to accompany the arrival of Barack Obama’s “Age of Responsibility” than The Age of Stupid, a documentary-drama-animation hybrid from director Franny Armstrong, who also directed the infamous McLibel and Drowned Out. The only fictional character is played by Oscar-nominated Pete Postlethwaite, who stars as an old man living in the devastated world of 2055. He watches archive footage from 2008 and asks, “Why didn’t we stop climate change when we had the chance?”
The film shows how runaway climate change has ravaged the planet by 2055. Postlethwaite plays the founder of The Global Archive, a storage facility located in the now melted Arctic, preserving all of humanity’s achievements in the hope that the planet might one day be habitable again. Or, indeed, that intelligent life might arrive from another planet and make use of some of our better achievements. The film pulls together clips of actual archive news and documentary from 1950 to 2008 to build a message showing what went wrong and why. Six very different real-
life characters tell their interwoven stories from New Orleans, Mumbai, Nigeria, Jordan, England and France. And all these stories are connected by one thing: oil.
I was captivated by the sheer humanity of each of the characters and I identified with elements of their characters, including some I would rather not have. The film introduces some uncomfortable ‘shadows’ in our lives (things that we routinely suppress, ignore or deny) and we then see for ourselves how dangerously these shadows can play out. The film invites us to call ourselves to account, and more importantly to call ourselves to action – now, before it is too late.
It was at the Be the Change conference in December 2007 that I had the good fortune to watch a rough cut of this film and to fall in love with it. It had another name then – Crude – but its essential nature was fully formed even then. I loved how the experiences of the six characters were woven together to paint a broad picture – a veritable oil canvas – where we can each recognise ourselves as bit-part players. It is a gloriously disturbing depiction of an era of humankind soaked in fossil-fuel addiction, drowning in our own mess: our species’ collective denial of what is really happening. I don’t think it is too much to hope that this film will really make us think and critically re-assess everything we think we know. It is a rare film, so firm in its foundations and so upright in its truth that it demands action.
There is a review of the wonderful book Ishmael by Daniel Quinn, which states, “From now on I will divide the books I have read into two categories – the ones I read before Ishmael and those read after.” I believe the same will be said of The Age of Stupid. The film marks the crucial tipping-point in human evolution and I am sure few will watch it and leave unshaken or unstirred. It is a subtle film that will change lives, for good.
Before I finish, there is something I must declare. It will be obvious by now that I am a fan and see this film as a masterpiece! What you also need to know is that I am proud to be one of many who were given the opportunity to ‘invest’ in getting the film finished, via what was called “crowd funding” – an ingenious way to fund films of this ilk that are often ignored by the mainstream media corporations. I sensed that helping to fund this film was something I had to do, something that could make the difference between my children’s legacy being a burning home planet or being given their future back.
The Age of Stupid is a not just a film that could change the course of human history. I hope it will be the catalyst that gives us a second chance to create a sustainable future. I hope it will promote a mass collective awakening globally such that we are not stupid and that we choose life and reclaim our children’s birthright – the right to expect a future.
The ‘people’s premiere’ of The Age of Stupid was on March 15th, and the film is now on UK general release.
Dave Hampton is a Carbon Coach.