Age of Stupid, the movie. Not impressed
After seeing an event invitation on Facebook, I went along yesterday to one of the premiere screenings of the new documentary film "Age of Stupid", which was pitched as being in the same general category as "An Inconvenient Truth".
I saw it in a small cinema auditorium in Leicester Square, only about 50 yards from the "stars' premiere" in a tent outside. The film was preceded and followed, by a live feed of an intro and platform Q&A from the director and producer, as well as footage of various people arriving.
I'm not going to write a full review, as there's plenty of those elsewhere on the web. Simply put, it involves the "Archivist" who lives in an armoured fortress full of the world's data and information and art, composing a video eulogy for the planet. This is narrated both by him (played by Pete Postlethwaite) and as the intertwined stories of various people - New Orleans-based oil industry worker, French mountain guide, Indian airline entrepreneur etc.
The actual editing and methodology is quite cool - you get a "computers-eye" view of him using a big touchscreen to pull up, display and combine various video clips and other material. Sort of a combination of iPhone, Minority Report display and Microsoft's Surface technology. Wearing my tech-analyst hat, it's quite realistic, and actually possible by 2015 rather than 2055.
Some of the content & commentary was interesting - for example the harrowing stories of (allegedly) Government-sponsored murder in Nigeria, and some NIMBY-type numpties trying to stop construction of wind farms in the UK.
Unfortunately, the stories were all designed to weave a crass narrative of how "life could be different, if only....". There was lots of thinly-veiled rhetoric about how we could all still be happy if we cast off material possessions, our desire to travel, our "consumption" of energy and resources and so forth. There was also plenty of emotive footage of Hurricane Katrina and floods in the UK, with the finger pointed at human-induced climate change.
My skin crawled while watching the French mountain guide, who seems happy to live in an "idyllic" rustic cottage and potter about in the countryside. Lots of pictures of him teaching his grandchildren to enjoy themselves without technology or other modern accoutrements. Good for him.
Basically, the film tried to convey the messages:
1) You can have a great and fulfilling lifestyle without "consuming"
2) Those advocating development are thoughtless idiots
3) Buy into the faith and evangelise it to everyone
Essentially, it tries to do for "militant" anti-capitalism, what "intelligent design" does to creationism. It attempts to make the ideology more acceptable to normal people, by creating blurred narratives full of non-sequiturs and straw men.
The Nigerian massacre was a case in point, clearly trying to link this to the "evilness" of oil company Shell. The focus on a couple of "useful idiots" complaining about wind farms and talking up mass air-travel in India were calculatedly selective.
Overall, it was trite, self-serving and narrow, with the intro and Q&A sections an exercise in fawning obsequiousness to various z-listers and political lowbrows like Ken Livingstone and Alistair Campbell.
There was no mention of nuclear power, no mention of population control, no mention of carbon capture, no mention of economic stimulus & investment in greentech from Obama & others. Not even any mention of tidal or wave energy - maybe because one of the "stars" competes with it with his wind turbines?
(I'd love to have asked its creators if they had considered the question "will humanity exist in its current form in 2055, or will we have hit Kurzweil's Singularity by then, and no longer have need of a corporeal existence? Not that I believe it's likely, but I'm pretty sure they've never even heard of the concept)
There was also lots of narrow thinking & soundbites about big companies & capitalism - I'd like to see some small companies try & build the next generation of computers (& especially chips) for climate modelling, or design of wind turbines.
As a final irony, I loved the nice subliminal touch to have Lisa (the wind company guy's wife) have a rucksack branded "Jeep", and for the oil guy to have Smith & Wesson branded sunglasses.... or maybe the continuity editing wasn't so good after all....
The most amusing moment was in one of the final "news reports" of future catastrophes, with a reference to "Lord Clarkson" as the UK Transport Minister....
In summary - I'm rather embarassed to have contributed via my attendance to the film's PR initiative about "the largest premiere ever". But at the same time, if I'm going to criticise things like this, I feel I need to see them for myself to judge.