The Age of Stupid : A 2009 British documentary

 

 


 

The Age of Stupid is a 2009 British documentary film by Franny Armstrong, director of McLibel. This was the film's official website during its pre and post production.
Content is from the site's 2008 archived pages, as well as from other outside sources.

 



The Age of Stupid - trailer

The Age of Stupid is a 90-minute film about climate change, set in the future. Oscar-nominated Pete Postlethwaite (In The Name of the Father, Brassed Off) stars as a man living alone in the devasted world of 2055, looking back at archived footage from 2007 and asking: why didn’t we stop climate change when we had the chance?

This enormously ambitious drama-documentary-animation hybrid stars Oscar-nominated Pete Postlethwaite as an old man living in the devastated world of 2055, watching "archive" footage from 2007 and asking: why didn't we stop climate change while we had the chance? 

 

The Seven Stars of Crude

Jeh Wadhia, India
                                   
Jeh was born into one of India's richest and most powerful business families. He believes that "everyone has a higher purpose" and that his is to "end poverty in our country in my lifetime". But travelling to rural areas at weekends by private jet to do social work cost "more than taking a village out of poverty". So he started taking the train. On one of these 26-hour journeys he had his Eureka moment. He would launch a low-cost airline. With fares starting as low as one rupee, even "rickshaw drivers, servants, taxi drivers" could fly. Within a year he'd get a million people off the trains and into the skies.


Layefa Malin, Nigeria
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23-year-old wannabe medical student Layefa Malin wants "to live like an American" with "flashy cars and comfortable houses, drinking clean water and eating good food". But she lives in complete poverty in a tiny village in the Niger Delta, with no electricity, drinking water or toilets. About 20 people died in a recent cholera outbreak. She dreams of becoming a doctor to "save the lives of people who are poor or needy" and also "to become famous, to be like a hero". She starts going fishing every morning, saving up money for college fees, but the river is "not good" because of the pollution caused by the extraction of millions of dollars worth of oil from the area every month. With the whole region descending into a "living hell" of daily violence, murder and kidnapping, Layefa decides "if you can't beat them, it is best to join them".


Al Duvernay, New Orleans
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Searching for oil off the coast of America is like "being a sports star or in some kind of battle", says lifelong Shell employee Al Duvernay. They drill three miles down, suck up some mud and give it to paleontologist Al. He examines the microscropic fossils, "deconstructs time itself" and advises where to drill next. The best bit is when the oil starts flowing and "smells so much like money it's just beautiful". On 30th August 2005, after Hurricane Katrina had decimated his home city of New Orleans, Al personally rescued more than 100 people in his boat. He thinks the devastation and suffering he saw that day is just a taste of what is to come if we continue to "literally burn up" our most valuable resource. "With our use or misuse of resources the last 100 years or so, I’d probably rename this age something like The Age of Ignorance, The Age of Stupid." he says. "If you multiply what happened to a million people living in this area by the billions on this planet... it's gonna be ugly".


Fernand Pareau, The Alps
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For French mountain guide Fernand Pareau it was "truly love at first sight" when he set eyes on the ancient glaciers of the Chamonix valley. He has since climbed the world-famous Mont Blanc peak more than 150 times, including "two years ago, for my 79th birthday". But over his long lifetime Fernand has seen his beloved glaciers melt by more than 150 metres. "With global warming everything is different", he says. Trees are now growing much higher in the mountains and birds don't bother to migrate for winter. Fernand takes his great-grandchildren, Jean and Rudy, high up in the mountains to ski on artificial snow as the ski slope in the village has long since closed. 3000 lorries "taking French potatoes to Italy and bringing them back as mash" drive right past Fernand's house every day. "It's madness. Madness." Fernand joins bicycle protests and plants 900 trees, but knows he does so in vain. "I think people in the future will be angry at us for not thinking to protect the environment. We only thought to profit from it."


Jamila & Adnan Bayyoud, Iraq
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Jamila and Adnan were only 5 and 6 when their home was destroyed by a missile on the second day of the Iraq war. They fled the house before the missile struck, but their elder brother, Malik, was badly burned and their father killed. "Our dad was the best one in all Iraq", says Adnan, "But the Americans came and killed him. We found him dead in the morning." The children now live on the streets in Jordan, scraping a living selling second-hand American shoes: "We wear our shoes till they fall apart, but they just throw theirs away". Meanwhile in Baghdad, brother Malik has managed to get the vital medical certificate he needs to make his ninth attempt at crossing the border. Jamila and Adnan get a taxi to the border, hoping to be reunited with their brother.


Piers Guy, England
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Windfarm developer Piers Guy doesn't see wind energy as the magic bullet that will save the world from climate change. But he does think that, especially for a windy country like England, turbines are the "foot soldiers, the pioneers" of a more intelligent energy system based on massively reducing energy use. He believes that "out of sight, out of mind" energy production has led to us all becoming "consumerholics" and, therefore, "the more you can see the turbines the better". Unfortunately the well-funded, well-heeled local NIMBYs have no intention of letting Piers's turbines spoil their view. "It's a fair fight", says the anti-wind campaign leader "and I hope you lose".

 



 

FROM THE CRUDE MOVIE DIARIES

 

FROM THE BEGINNING
A film about oil

Franny Armstrong
Location
In bed at home in Camden
Mood
Quietly confident
Soundtrack
Cat snoring gently on my knees
Ailments
Mildly hungover
Date
26.06.02
Current crisis
Next five years mapping themselves out alarmingly
Current silver lining
Takes mind off recently departed boyfriend
I was snowboarding through perfect powder yesterday, so didn't really want to wake up and answer the phone. But it did insist on ringing and ringing on the landline and then the mobile and then the landline, till I suddenly panicked that my dad was dead and leapt to it. It was my filmmaking friend Alex Cooke, wondering why I was asleep at 7.45pm when we were meeting in Kings Cross at 7.30pm to go to a documentary seminar. She was remarkably understanding and suggested we forget it, but - thankfully, thankfully - I felt bad and cycled down there quick.

The talk was boring so we sat outside in the foyer with beer. She said she wanted to make a film about oil. Some time passed. I got up to go to the toilet. As I walked out of the room, mildly pissed, the word 'Traffic' popped into my head. I didn't know why.

Walking back in, three minutes later, I realised that we should make a documentary about oil, pinching the ingenious structure of Stephen Soderberg's movie Traffic. Five human stories weaving themselves around all sides of a complicated issue. I told Alex. She agreed it was genius and we should have more beers.

It's now the next morning and I still think it's genius. But a little overambitious.

DIRECTOR'S BIO
Former drummer Franny Armstrong accidentally became a filmmaker. Her no-budget, ten-year doc, "McLibel" has been watched by 22 million people and featured in the BFI's "Ten Documentaries Which Shook The World" season. She also made Drowned Out (the fight against India's Narmada Dam) and Baked Alaska (melting ice in America's coldest oil state). Since 2004, she's been filming her new climate change epic, "The Age of Stupid", in Nigeria, India, New Orleans, Iraq, The Alps and Bedford.

Location London, England
Years on Crude 5
Years on Crude as % of total life 14
Jet, jeep, bike or bus Feet
Sleepless nights cos of climate change 7 last week
Original Crude connection Drunkenly thought of it
Memorable Crude moment Handing over master tape (not quite there yet)
Scared of Climate change and maggots
Guilty of Flying to film festivals
Climate change silver bullet Adopt
Life outside Crude Occasional singalongs
Life after Crude

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Nov 28: From volunteer to movie star
Sylvia Wroblewska
Location
Spectrecom Studios
Mood
High on green paint
Date
28.11.07
I can't ever imagine anyone writing a sufficient job description for a Production Assistant. In the 9 months I've been with Spanner Films, I've been a volunteer, an office manager, an accounts assistant, a cook, a courier, a cocktail waitress, a make up artist, but today was officially the strangest working day (to date) of my time at Spanner.

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Nov 11: Kamikaze PR strategy
Lizzie Gillett
Location
Dilapidated grandeur of Grosvenor Hotel in Sheffield
Mood
Sick with nerves
Date
11.11.07
We've brought Crude to the Sheffield Documentary Festival for a "work-in-progress" screening. Seemed like a good idea six weeks ago: thinking we'd kickstart the Crude hype machine as well as getting feedback from other filmmakers. But lots of people who know about such things are saying we're mad to show such an unfinished film in such a dragon's den. David made a good suggestion: why not show just the first 45 minutes and (hopefully) leave them wanting more.

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June 11: 500 million people on the case?
Franny Armstrong
Location
1.10am, hire car on the M1, Lizzie driving
Mood
Despair
Date
11.06.07
The last ever day filming Crude didn't start too well for poor Lizzie as the hire car she picked up yesterday developed a flat tyre and she spent half the night organising tow trucks. Then had to get up at 5.30am to pick me and new soundman Ben up to drive to Bedford for the result of Piers's three-year battle to get planning permission for his latest windfarm.

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Oct 24: May as well scream
Lizzie Gillett
Location
At a Cabon Detox Show in a church in Oxford
Mood
Inspired
Date
24.10.07
Franny's old pal George Marshall has been investigating the psychology of climate change denial for a few years, so we came to Oxford to pick his brains on the character of our old man in the future. We've been thinking perhaps he should be a do-gooder now: someone who recycles fastidiously but then flies five times a year on holiday.

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Oct 16: Most powerful people ever?
Lizzie Gillett
Location
Train home from George's place in Wales
Mood
Inspired
Date
16.10.07
George Monbiot came up with our new favourite thought on climate change today, during the many-times-postponed interview for the film. To paraphrase: you think you're powerless and anything you do is irrelevant? The opposite is true - we are the generation who will decide the future of our species. Every single thing each one of us does or doesn't do is crucial to whether we survive or not. Making us the most powerful individuals ever. He was also absolutely crystal clear on the Love Miles flying question:

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Sept 21: Any animators out there?
Lizzie Gillett
Location
Soho Cafe
Mood
Enthusiastic
Date
21.09.07
My current role in life is meeting animators and attempting to persuade them to work on our film. There's plenty of them and they all love the sound of the project, think it's very worthwhile, would love to get their work onto the big screen and creatively it's very exciting but then as soon as I mention our meager survival wages, they start mumbling about how they're booked on a slimfast / catfood / plastic crap commercial and will have to get back to me.

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REVIEWS

Documentary films

The Age of Stupid

***/5 Peter Bradshaw | Thu 19 Mar 2009 | www.theguardian.com

Franny Armstrong's low-budget climate change documentary is sometimes scrappy. Some may find its sci-fi premise annoying: Pete Postlethwaite plays the last guy alive in a post-apocalyptic, climate-fried world, introducing a preserved video archive of news clips and interviews filmed way back in the first decade of the 21st century. He muses sorrowfully on how humankind could have been so stupid, ignoring the environmental warning signs. Now, I've got to be quite honest and say that I found this concept a touch annoying and teenagery sometimes, and The Age of Stupid does not have the focus and weight of Al Gore's outstanding An Inconvenient Truth. I must also register the point on which I timidly dissent from my colleague, George Monbiot: the practice of calling those who dispute climate change "deniers" - do they have to be tarred with a Nazi brush?

Yet the passion, urgency and punch of this rough-and-ready film is real enough. It's refreshing too. The cinema and its attendant media-comment industry appear to have endless space for every sort of smoothly mediocre irrelevancy in fact and fiction. There should be room for an essay on the most screamingly important problem that we all now face.

Armstrong's wide-ranging film pulls together a disparate collection of witnesses, including a robustly unrepentant oil executive in New Orleans, who is nonetheless shown becoming reflective after Katrina destroyed everything he owned - seeing how political incompetence and inaction can usher in disaster.

The film's most intriguing section deals with the ferocious and acrimonious battle in this country centring on wind farms. This is a battle that the climate-change protesters are losing, because opponents in the shires have mobilised a formidable activist army of their own, and they're objecting on environmental grounds: that the windmills are a massive eyesore. Armstrong has one exquisitely horrible moment when a haughty anti-wind farm woman sneeringly corrects her opponent for using the word "additive" when he means "additional": a fenceline moment of political warfare if ever there was one. But how to win this argument? Like it or not, the anti-wind farmers are assuming the underdog-protest cachet. Yet would they be allowed to prevail against dozens of new nuclear reactors - Gordon Brown's favoured approach to the problem?

The Age of Stupid, like other activist documentaries, may face putdowns from those who find it insufficiently sophisticated or consensual. But it deserves a hearing. To mangle a well-known phrase: Rome is burning and Franny Armstrong is fiddling the right tune.

 

 

An Alarm From 2055: Act Now to Save the Earth

THE AGE OF STUPID Directed by Franny Armstrong Documentary, History, War 1h 32m

By STEPHEN HOLDENJULY 16, 2009 | /www.nytimes.com



Futuristic voice of doom: Pete Postlethwaite in “The Age of Stupid,” which explores the effects of climate change. CreditSpanner Films

In “The Age of Stupid,” a frightening jeremiad about the effects of climate change, the craggy-faced British actor Pete Postlethwaite plays the Archivist, a finger-pointing, futuristic voice of doom in 2055. Peering into a retrospective crystal ball that shows scenes from the early 21st century, he scolds the human race for having committed suicide.

The curator of the Global Archive, a storage site of human knowledge in what is now a melted Arctic, the Archivist presses a rewind button on a touch screen to show documentary scenes related to climate change that were shot when there was still time for humanity to save itself. At the end of “The Age of Stupid,” which uses crude animation that depicts London underwater, Sydney burning and Las Vegas buried in sand, the Archive is sent into space.

A much sterner and more alarming polemic than “An Inconvenient Truth,” “The Age of Stupid,” directed by Franny Armstrong, will be taken by some as an emergency wake-up call to do everything possible to avert impending catastrophe. In the film Mark Lynas, the British environmental activist and author of “Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet,” warns of a tipping point around 2015 if the world doesn’t immediately act to reduce carbon emissions. Once global temperatures warm more than two degrees, he says, all will be lost.

Others may find the challenges to humanity posed by the documentary so daunting that “The Age of Stupid” (the Archivist’s sarcastic nickname for our time) may convince viewers that, practically speaking, it is already too late to act. Cynics may assume that the ethic of consumerism is too deeply instilled in us to be changed, as is the faith in capitalism, which depends on continuous growth. If so, we might as well put the coming horrors out of our minds and live for the moment, while hoping for a miracle.

The personal stories among which the film hopscotches examine specific situations. Two involve big oil. We meet a retired paleontologist, who worked for Shell Oil, discovering new resources off the coast of New Orleans, but who also helped rescue more than 100 people after Hurricane Katrina. This was a disaster that the Archivist, looking back, says was only the first of many similar meteorological catastrophes related to climate change.

A young woman who dreams of becoming a doctor lives in an impoverished Nigerian village where Shell operates a drilling operation. She fishes in the oil-polluted waters to raise money for her education. She laments the paradox of “the resource curse,” in which oil wealth contributes to a country’s poverty by putting riches in the hands of a greedy, corrupt few who neglect the education and health of a country while contaminating the environment.
An octogenarian mountaineer in the French Alps observes how the melting of glaciers has necessitated the construction of longer ladders for climbers to reach them. Another vignette revolves around Iraqi children who hate the United States and blame the American lust for oil for the war.

The two stories that best exemplify the difficulties faced by environmentalists have to do with a fledgling Indian airline and a proposed wind farm in the English countryside. Jeh Wadia, an entrepreneur in Mumbai who is starting a low-cost airline, believes he is doing good by helping the economy in India. But as Piers Guy, a wind-farm developer in England who carefully measures his carbon footprint, says, air travel is a major contributor to global warming. Mr. Guy’s campaign to build turbines that would produce wind energy in Bedfordshire is vehemently opposed by residents because it will spoil their views and lower their property values.

A thread of needling gallows humor runs through “The Age of Stupid.” Near the end of the film the Archivist wonders: “Why didn’t we save ourselves? Was the answer that we weren’t sure we were worth saving?” He may have a point.

THE AGE OF STUPID
Opens on Friday in Manhattan.

Directed by Franny Armstrong; music by Chris Brierley; produced by Lizzie Gillett; released by Spanner Films and Passion Pictures. At the IFC Center, 323 Avenue of the Americas, at Third Street, Greenwich Village. Running time: 1 hour 29 minutes. This film is not rated.

 

The rage of stupid

David Cox| Monday 23 Mar 2009 | www.theguardian.com

Who'd go to see a film that's out to prove that most of us are stupid? Not, it must be feared, the supposedly stupid themselves. They'd be too stupid, wouldn't they?

Sadly, such an exercise seems more likely to attract the elect few already blessed with the wisdom that their fellows are deemed to lack. For them, however, the price of a ticket won't buy much-needed enlightenment, but only big-screen authentication for a pre-existing sense of self-righteous superiority.

This may help to explain the enthusiasm that The Age of Stupid seems to inspire in its patrons. The film's website invites them to provide their own reviews of the climate change sci-fi-documentary-sermon. A contributor called Chris A sums up the prevailing sentiment in just one word: "Unbef*ckinglievable."

Nonetheless, the site's managers are taking no chances. Their comment box carries a legend that somewhat undermines this apparently glowing feedback. It reads: "Any comments from climate deniers/sceptics will be deleted."

Suppose, however, that some of the stupids thus excluded bothered to see the film. Suppose they were then permitted to post their responses. Would they be renouncing their past obtuseness and committing themselves henceforth to the climate campaign? Such must be the hope of the film's makers, but it's hard to see it actually being fulfilled.

Even the dimmest of cinemagoers might balk at The Age of Stupid's central conceit. It's 2055, and global warming's done its damnedest. Pete Postlethwaite plays one of the few human survivors. He's busy assembling a video to warn alien civilisations that they mustn't repeat the errors of the Earthlings.

It consists of graphic reportage of the woeful ways of the naughty noughties and the insouciant attitudes of those who indulged in them. Cheap flights, intensive farming, bottled water, throwaway trainers and outboard motors spawn melting glaciers, heatwaves, floods, Hurricane Katrina and the Iraq war (it was of course all about oil). Meanwhile, greedy shoppers carry on shopping, nimbys block wind farms and self-satisfied petroleum executives boast of their achievements.

Throughout all this, Pete manages to maintain exactly the same expression. It's one of pained disbelief. These people knew what the consequences of their actions would be. How could they have been so stupid?

Well, if Pete had actually watched his footage, instead of fine-tuning his grimace, he might have realised he was asking the wrong question. The delinquents being depicted may have been selfish, but they weren't actually stupid.

They launched new airlines, turned up the gas and bought unnecessary stuff because they wanted to do these things. Though some may have professed scepticism about climate change, the unfortunate truth is that most didn't really care that much what might or might not happen in 2055. In any case, they knew that whatever they did as individuals would make no real difference to a problem that confronted them collectively, if at all.

The Age of Stupid's neglect of these realities could have a perverse impact on the yet-to-be-persuaded filmgoer. He or she might conclude that if a film like this could point no way past such difficulties, then they must surely be insurmountable. The situation must therefore be hopeless: we might as well enjoy ourselves as best we can till doomsday arrives, which, after all, it may never do, since this film offers little more than noisy assertion to prove that it will.

The remedy that The Age of Stupid advances could well compound this effect. The film peddles the climate lobby's politically loaded orthodoxy, namely that what's required is "the total reordering of western society".

Asians must be allowed to increase their emissions, even though the no-frills airline featured is Indian and we're told that China's building a new coal-fired power station every four days. As Asia goes carbon crazier, America and Europe must make momentous sacrifices, though the film observes that governments can only do what their peoples want.

Population policy goes politely unmentioned. So do nuclear power, geo-engineering and environmental adaptation. Presumably, our stupids might conclude, there's no hope to be found in these directions either, if even the doomsters see no call to mention them. Let's all party on, while we've still got the chance.

Fans of The Age of Stupid claim that its passion and verve easily eclipse the plodding exposition of An Inconvenient Truth. God knows, Al Gore's slideshowfest was a dreary watch. Nonetheless, he did try to offer filmgoers a properly argued case. He may not have done too much for the climate cause, but at least he probably didn't set it back.

Memo to future cinematic propagandists: don't assume that those who disagree with you must be stupid; and try to avoid stupidity yourself.

 

Greens Promote New Film 'The Age of Stupid'

By Tim Graham | September 16, 2009 | www.newsbusters.org

Sitting through previews at the Regal Theatres in Manassas, I saw an advertisement for their Fathom Events, one-time events at movie theaters. They were promoting the premiere of a new British global-warming film on Monday, September 21 called "The Age of Stupid," sponsored by MoveOn and Greenpeace. The film will be simulcast from a solar tent in downtown New York to over 440 movie theatres across America.

As usual in liberal-ese, "The Age of Stupid" is our age, in which someone still allows the obstacles of conservative activism and a fraction of a free market. The film is radical enough that The New York Times raved it was "a much sterner and more alarming polemic than An Inconvenient Truth." Here’s some of their promotional lingo:

Will people in the future call our time the age of stupid? Or will humanity find a solution to the world’s most urgent problem? You decide!

Join audiences in movie theatres nationwide for a one-night event featuring a celebrity-studded live "green carpet" pre-show, the debut of the acclaimed docudrama "The Age of Stupid," and a live panel discussion with some of the world’s pre-eminent thought leaders. Come and be inspired to take action on the world's most pressing problem – climate change.

As one might expect, humans from the Horrific Future look back and wonder how we could be so stupid as to doubt the Greens:

This acclaimed docudrama stars Oscar-nominated Pete Postlethwaite – This special night will feature the premiere of the acclaimed docudrama The Age of Stupid, starring Oscar-nominated Pete Postlethwaite stars as a man living alone in the devastated world of 2055, looking at old footage from 2008 and asking: why didn’t we stop climate change when we had the chance? By exploring the personal stories of 7 individuals from around the world – a US Shell Oil employee, a 23-year-old African woman, an Indian entrepreneur, two Iraqi children – discover the local impact of this global issue.

The film will be followed by singers, actors and other "thought leaders" in a panel discussion:

Join these thought leaders as they discuss LIVE via satellite the challenges we face and how we might overcome them: Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland, Ed Milliband, UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Pete Postlethwaite, Oscar nominee and star of The Age of Stupid, Gillian Anderson, award-winning actress, Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, and other leading thinkers, celebrities, and political figures from around the world.

 


 

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