on 3 October 2009
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 differently.
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 be left 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. 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.
on 1 June 2010
The Age Of Stupid 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 a quarter of the IMDb votes have given the film a rating of 10/10 and around 10% (it seems, a fair proportion of the US-based) 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 Shell's operations in the Niger delta and the Iraq war. There is recognition of the tremendous benefits oil has given us, but as the events in the Gulf Of Mexico will testify it is surely time to look the terrible cost of our thirst for oil.
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 some aesthetic quality of how documentaries should or shouldn't be made, 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.
on 16 March 2009
The Age of Stupid sets out to show us what the Earth will look like if we don't tackle the enormous problem we have unwittingly created - climate change. Combining real news and documentary footage of the climate change effects we can already see with a fictional portrayal of those to come if we do nothing, the cast and crew have created a very powerful and watchable film which every Earth citizen should see.
Several real lives are on display here, from the Nigerian woman trying to earn enough money to go to medical school in a land torn apart by oil extraction to the middle class British family fighting to create a wind farm against local opposition. Most moving to me was the 80 year old mountain guide in the Alps - a man as tough as old boots - nearly in tears as he describes the rapid retreat of his beloved glaciers and the ever increasing lorry traffic through the previously peaceful Chamonix.
We can pat outselves on the back and imagine we're living in the Golden Age of humanity as we live our comfortable, oil-dependent lives. But if we do nothing against this threat then whatever history the human race gets to leave behind will show that we have been living in The Age of Stupid, staring our own demise in the face and doing nothing.
on 15 March 2009
I was fortunate to see a Preview Sreening of this film, described by The Guardian as: 'The first successful dramatisation of Climate Change to hit the big screen'. Oscar-nominated Pete Postlethwaite stars as a man living alone in the devastated future world of 2055, looking at old footage from 2008 and asking: why didn't we stop climate change when we had the chance? From an archive buliding containing some of the world's most precious art treasures, he shows us documentary footage of six contemporary characters - ranging from an 80 year old french mountain guide witnessing the shrinking of his beloved Alpine glaciers, to the belligerant head of an airline aspiring to be India's answer to Easy Jet. There are also stunning otherworldy animation scenes showing the devastated planet in 2055, and Monty Python style cartoon sequences delivering sobering stats on consumerism. All set to a cracking soundtrack from the likes of Depeche Mode and Radiohead. The science behind the film has been meticulously researched, but it's not all doom and gloom. The movie's real strength lies in its humour, and its hope. For it aims to turn every one of us into a Climate Change activist. There's still time to avert a global crisis of biblical proportions, but only if we act NOW.
on 31 October 2009
My parents saw this at a local showing recently. The reaction to what they saw really surprised me, and I have to say, I was pleased to discover their outrage at what is going on, that should be what is not going on. They are both in their 70's, and have not been to the cinema for a very long time. I convinced them, very easily I might add, to go see the film. Now, they have recognised what is wrong in this world. My Dad summed it up best, GREED! I won't repeat other words he used, but he was quite vocal about the merits of the film. I have not seen it yet, so I intend to buy this DVD based on the huge effect it has had on my parents. BTW, they are not senile, nor uneducated. It has changed their life. I am already convinced what some people are trying to do to negate the effects of this unstoppable process is correct, even if at a later date science proves we had little to do with the rise of C02 levels. Re-use of anything, reducing fuel and power usage has to be a good thing anyway, right?
on 1 April 2009
Age of Stupid is a definite must see film, from both the vital subject point of view and for appreciating the art of independent film maker, Franny Armstrong at writing and directing such an incredible, powerfully told drama doc, with hardly any money and (I believe) only 1% of the usual carbon footprint most cinematic films are made with.
Starring the wonderful Pete Postlethwaite as the only man alive in 2055, looking back at his archive from 2007/8 and asking the question, 'Why didn't we do something about climate change when we could have?' the non preachy true story unfolds by taking journeys to different parts of the world, visiting people whose lives are already affected by the power of climate change.
Whilst each story is in its self is compelling, having them all within a 90 minute film, far from egging the pudding, shows perhaps just how desensitised and complacent different parts of the world have become to situations outside of their own experience.
As far as I understand Franny Armstrong and most, if not all of the team, worked for just the minimum wage, or maybe even less/nothing, for 5 years in order to make the film. The film wasn't funded by grants or money from corporate investors, but from individuals who believed in her, took a risk and shares in the project.
More info is available from  Since the film's been launched 'Team Stupid' haven't stopped there and have launched the next step..... Not Stupid! All info, is on the web site.
In summary The Age of Stupid is well worth watching. It's educating, disturbing, inspiring, motivating and far from making people into eco geeks, just shows us how important yet ordinary we should consider the changes we can make in our lives as individuals now. Yet at the same time how essential it is for the world powers to get to grips with the truth and begin to make and agree a coordinatored, effective and meaningful plan about the action they are required to take NOW! Enjoy ......well enjoy isn't the right word, but I'm sure you know what I mean!
on 6 July 2009
For the enlightened this is a film that could say more, but for the mainstream it is perfect.
Our climate change group held a screening of the Age of Stupid in our village at the weekend. Afterwards 40 of the 60 attendees signed up for the transport for the Stop Climate Chaos march on Dec 5th in London.
on 7 June 2009
There are 2 things that don't work about this film. First, it presents the huge problem but no solutions that the individual can grasp onto, and therefore, like so much media on the issue of global warming, it leaves the viewer with a very disempowered feeling. Luckily, when I saw it, there was someone from the team who had made it to give a talk which was far more inspiring and motivating and gave the whole evening a different dimension, and changed those watching more into activists than the film could ever do. Second, it goes slightly off topic: it covers Iraqi refuggees in Jordan who have witnessed their father being shot by Americans, and at one point one of them says - I want to shoot Americans because they shot my Dad. Whatever one feels about the Iraq war, this clearly won't help get the message across to US audiences so that is the film maker's politics taking priority over what she wishes to achieve with the film.
But watch this film nevertheless - it's important, hopefully it will be influential.
Most importantly, take action to lobby politicians and people of influence - there isn't a whole lot of time left in which we can stop the massive climate changes that are taking place in our world, and we cannot leave this up to anyone else - it is our responsibility. We owe it to future generations - and we cannot leave this to future generations, because it will be too late.
Finally, have a look at the film Home by Yann Arthus-Bertrand - on youtube till 14 June 2009.
on 1 July 2010
Unless someone is living in denial and has no feelings about what is happening in the world this film is a 'must see'. If someone is unsure about the facts this is a good place to start. If you do a bit of research yourself you'll find the evidence for everything that is said in the film. One of the best things about this film, particularly in comparison to the dry approach of say 'An inconvenient truth' is that it doesn't just try to preach a "we are all doomed" message but give positive ideas about how we can solve the problems IF we ALL work at it. It is a project for the human race as a whole and our survival probably depends on the action everyone is taking, even if it is only in a small way. It is also entertaining to watch. It is poignant, oddly humourous and very informative. Don't miss out on the bonus features either. The two scientists talking give some extremely valuable extra insights regarding the "population bottleneck" and our oil-dependent economies etc.
on 16 April 2009
I saw the Premier in Cambridge and didn't really know what to expect: I was very surprised. The Age of Stupid manages to be a hugely entertaining, slick, modern film which I would suggest as being able to make anyone wake up to the challenges we face regarding energy and climate change in the not-too-distant future.
If you thought An Inconvenient Truth was good, The Age of Stupid beats it hands down. Buy the DVD, enjoy watching it, then realise you're in the 21st century and have to change the way you live.